06/13/2014 05:44 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2014

Cancer: Everyone Pays

NBC's Maggie Fox reported that "a new federal study shows there's a financial burden too -- on average, $4,000 a year for men and $3,000 for women over and above what people who haven't had cancer spend."

To me, that number seems low. However, as Fox points out, "with more than 13 million cancer survivors in the U.S. now, that's a lot of money."

Firsthand and up close, I have seen insured families' finances explode in the face of cancer, wiping out most to all of their resources.

Fox reported that Donates Ekwueme, a senior health economist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who worked on the report, said:

"Cancer survivors face physical, emotional, psychosocial, employment and financial challenges as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

With the number of cancer survivors expected to increase by more than 30 percent in the next decade -- to 18 million Americans -- medical and public health professionals must be diligent in their efforts to help reduce the burden of cancer on survivors and their families."

More recently, experts in the cancer arena have suggested prevention as the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer.

With reports of increased incidences of cancer, news of accompanying financial challenges is no surprise -- which makes me wonder why some lawmakers and individuals do not understand the economic fallout of cancer, not just for patients and their families, but for all of us.

When we as a society turn our heads away as a response to something such as toxic foods, among other things that increase risk for obesity―a cancer risk. It bewilders me when I see fast food restaurants in cancer treatment centers or legislators wanting to lower the bar on healthy foods for schools.

Especially when one realizes the investment these corporations make exclusively to improve their bottom line, including mobile apps that stealthily market poor choices to vulnerable demographics, primarily children. According to the Yale Rudd Center:

"Eight of the largest fast food restaurants offered iPhone applications with restaurant locators in 2010-11. KFC featured an iPhone game in which users could customize their own 'grill' (jewelry worn on the front teeth) on an animated mouth, and enter their own message. When held in front of the user's mouth and spoken into, the custom grill appeared to talk. Newer apps from fast food restaurants provide quick response (QR) codes to access promotions or allow customers to pay with their mobile devices."

What some see as overregulation relative to food choices in schools or the size of sodas relative to sugar, I see as potentially a way of saving citizens the expense of negative health outcomes including cancer. When we see things in the marketplace, we have to ask ourselves who the winner is -- who benefits from foods that increase health risks. It's not the consumer.

Health concerns are no longer someone else's issue: they are all of ours. You're paying for it -- your neighbor's health is on your tab, and it makes no difference what medical model you may be operating under.

According to the CDC:

"Several effective primary and secondary prevention measures could reduce the number of new cancer cases substantially and prevent many cancer-related deaths. To reduce the nation's cancer burden, we must reduce behavioral and environmental factors that increase cancer risk and ensure that high-quality screening services and evidence-based treatments are available and accessible to everyone, including medically underserved populations."

If people are not moved to prevent cancer from a social interest perspective, they should at the very least be interested in doing so from an economic perspective.