20 cancer centers comprise 86% of all advertising dollars

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Between 2005 and 2014, U.S. cancer centers' advertising costs more than tripled, with spending highly concentrated among a small number of provider organizations, according to a study conducted by researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine and the University of Pittsburgh.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examined the role advertising played in cancer patients' selection of a treatment center.

Below are five study findings.

1. In 2014, 890 U.S. cancer centers spent $173 million on advertising efforts, compared to $54 million in 2005.

2. In 2014, 20 of 890 cancer centers accounted for 86 percent of advertising spending. Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Boca Raton, Fla., spent $101.7 million on national, local and internet ads in 2014. MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston came in second at $13.9 million in adverstising spending and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York came in third at $9.1 million.  

3. Cancer centers with the highest advertising spending in 2014 spent a considerable proportion of advertising dollars in national media outlets. This suggests these organizations compete for patients outside of their regional markets, according to the study.

4. Of the 20 centers with the highest spending in 2014, more than half were not designated by the National Cancer Institute and three were not accredited by the Commission on Cancer.

5. Researchers found many cancer center advertisements used emotion-based techniques to influence viewers rather than fact-based information, such as treatment costs, benefits or risks. "There is a concern among some physicians that such advertising may persuade patients to pursue high-cost treatments with a low likelihood of improving outcomes," Laura Vater, the study's coauthor from Indiana University School of Medicine, told Reuters.

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