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Originally published Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 10:08 PM

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Cancer-cost burden straining system, researchers say

The rising cost of cancer research and care, which helped reduce death rates by 16 percent over 40 years, is straining the U.S. health system and needs to be restrained, commentators said in a special edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

NEW YORK — The rising cost of cancer research and care, which helped reduce death rates by 16 percent over 40 years, is straining the U.S. health system and needs to be restrained, commentators said in a special edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Cancer research has cost the U.S. government $100 billion since 1971 and the price of care, accounting for inflation, has more than doubled to $90 billion since 1990.

"The expanding financial burden of cancer," including rising incidence rates, "cannot be ignored," wrote researchers from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, led by Elena Elkin, in a commentary that was among those included in the special issue.

Cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., killing 562,000 people a year, according to the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.

In one survey cited in the journal, almost a quarter of respondents with health insurance said they used most or all of their savings during treatment for the disease.

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