TORONTO - A new forecast from the Conference Board of Canada predicts the economic burden of three chronic lung diseases will be $24.1 billion in the year 2030.

But it suggests that new strategies to reduce risk factors could reduce this amount by an estimated $1.5 billion.

It points to strategies in the National Lung Health Framework, such as reducing smoking rates and second-hand smoke exposure, as well as reducing radon exposure and exposure to carcinogens in high-risk professions.

The report on chronic lung disease in Canada focuses on lung cancer, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

In 2010, the burden of these diseases was estimated at $12 billion, which includes costs for drugs and doctors, as well as indirect costs like disability and premature death.

The report notes that businesses have an important role to play, for example, by introducing benefit plans that encourage employees to stop smoking.

"Such plans have the potential to reduce employee absenteeism and boost productivity for a wide array of reasons that go beyond chronic lung diseases," said the report, released Thursday.

"They may allow the company to gain a competitive recruiting advantage."

Projections in the report suggest that the number of people with lung cancer will rise from just over 42,000 in 2010 to just under 65,000 by 2030. The number of patients with COPD is expected to rise from just over 1.65 million to more than 2.5 million in the same period.

Asthma cases would rise from just under 3.2 million cases to 3.9 million, the projections state.

If risk factors attributed to these diseases are reduced, the severity of disease for those diagnosed will be reduced, particularly for asthma and COPD, said the report, entitled Cost Risk Analysis for Chronic Lung Disease in Canada.

The conference board report was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The lung health framework is a project involving health organizations and individuals from various sectors and regions of Canada. It involved contributions from patient groups, health-care providers and federal, provincial and territorial agencies.