6 Trends in Cancer Every Employer Should Know

trends in cancer

Trends in cancer employers should know

Company spend on cancer care is growing.

According to a 2023 survey conducted by Business Group on Health (BGH), 86% of employers list cancer as a top three driver of their healthcare costs. Another recent report found that cancer makes up 16% of an organization’s annual healthcare costs—and companies expect this to increase by 9% each year for the next several years.

In response to these staggering numbers, 53% of employers told BGH that they will offer a cancer-focused centers of excellence approach in 2024.

But regardless of where on the cancer care spectrum an employer falls, all companies should still be in the know about what’s going on with cancer, especially considering it’s the second most common cause of death in the U.S.

Understanding the latest facts and trends in cancer can inform how you vet and tailor benefits packages and help you provide better cancer care for staff.

6 Current Trends in Cancer

1. The number of new cancer diagnoses is increasing—especially in younger people

Even with the risk of death declining for cancer patients, the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be more than 2 million new cases of cancer diagnosed this year. This will be the first time this estimate has surpassed the 2 million mark.

One explanation for this record-breaking amount is our aging population. As we get older, the risk of cancer goes up: According to the American Cancer Society, 88% of people diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. are 50 or above.

But even if we account for age, larger numbers of under-50 individuals are being diagnosed with cancer.

One recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal BMJ Oncology found that from 1990 to 2019, incidences of early-onset cancer (typically those under 50) increased by 79.1% worldwide, with 40-somethings particularly affected. The report suggests that dietary habits, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use could partly be the cause.

2. There are more late-stage cancer diagnoses

During the pandemic and ensuing stay-at-home mandates, many patients put off—or skipped altogether—crucial screenings and preventative care, leading to a rise in later-stage cancer diagnoses.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 40% of U.S. adults chose to delay “non-essential” care such as routine cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies.

And companies are noticing the shift: 18% of employers in BGH’s study reported seeing a higher prevalence of late-stage cancers in 2023, while 41% anticipate seeing this impact in the near future.

3. Screenable cancers are on the rise

Perhaps one of the most concerning trends in cancer is that, while late-stage diagnoses have increased, so too have diagnoses for screenable (and sometimes preventable) cancers, including breast, prostate, colorectal, and cervical cancer. We largely have the pandemic to blame for this as well, as more people delayed routine screening tests during this time.

Improving the consistency of cancer screenings could have a significant impact on outcomes. A 2024 study by the National Cancer Institute predicted that increasing screenings by just 10% could result in tens of thousands of lives saved—for colorectal cancer, it could result in 21% fewer deaths, while for cervical cancer, an impressive 40% reduction.

4. There are stark disparities in cancer diagnoses and treatment among marginalized populations

Marginalized communities continue to see disproportionate outcomes when it comes to diagnoses and treatment. For example, according to the latest figures from the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate for Black men is 19% higher than that of white men, and the death rate for endometrial cancer is two times higher for Black women than white women.

And while overall cancer incidence and mortality rates are decreasing across races and ethnicities, cancer screening is still less common in Black, Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian and Alaska Native communities than in white communities.

Learn how employers can achieve greater health equity among their workforce.

5. Colorectal cancer is rising among young people

Screenings are even more crucial for patients with the rise in colorectal cancer—a cancer in the colon or rectum.

While colorectal cancers have been in decline in people over the age of 50, they’re steadily increasing and becoming more aggressive in the younger population. In 2019, the American Cancer Society reported 20% of colorectal cancer cases came from individuals under 55—that number was just 11% in 1995.

Experts cite higher rates of childhood obesity, certain dietary factors, alcohol consumption, and less propensity to conduct colonoscopies in younger patients as possible reasons why this is the case. That said, they emphasize that the risk of colon or rectal cancer is still relatively low for young people.

6. Costs for new cancer drugs are increasing

New cancer drugs are getting more expensive and potentially becoming less accessible for everyday patients. This is due to factors including inflation, price hikes from pharmaceutical companies, and increased spending in cancer care in general.

For example, spending on cancer medicine in the U.S. rose from $58 billion in 2018 to $88 billion in 2022, according to a 2023 report by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science cited by Formulary Watch

Forty-four percent of new cancer drug launches in the past five years have costs that exceed $200,000 annually, IQVIA found, while the median annual cost for new oncology medicines was $260,000 in 2023. 10 years ago, that number was around $63,000.

The State of Oncology Benefits 2024



The landscape in cancer prevention and treatment is constantly evolving, putting individuals in sometimes confusing or frustrating positions.

Employers with a pulse on the current trends in cancer will be well-suited to effectively guide employees with cancer through this challenge, provide the right financial and emotional support, and pivot quickly should needs or healthcare trends change.


The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only. No material is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.