Cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases in the world and in the U.S. Consider these six statistics:
- According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 1.8 million new cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 2020.
- Between 2014 and 2018, about 450.5 out of every 100,000 people were diagnosed each year.
- Based on data between 2016 and 2018, approximately 39.2 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes.
- In 2020, more than 606,000 people died from cancer.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer was the second leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2019, trailing only heart disease.
- About 155.5 out of 100,000 men and women died annually between 2014 and 2018.
The good news in cancer statistics
The good news about cancer is that the overall death rates are decreasing.
- A March 2020 report showed that cancer death rates decreased by:
- 1.8 percent per year among men between between 2001 and 2017.
- 1.4 percent per year among women between 2001 and 2017.
- 1.4 percent per year among children between 2013 and 2017.
The most common types of cancer
Breast cancer and prostate cancer are the two most common types of the disease in women and men, respectively.
- Nearly 13 percent of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes. It is most often diagnosed in older women, with more than half of cases being diagnosed between ages 55 and 74.
- Breast cancer accounts for 14.8 percent of all new cancer cases and 7.2 percent of cancer deaths.
- Approximately 12.5 percent of men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their lifetime. About 88 percent of cases occur between the ages of 55 to 84.
- Prostate cancer accounted for 13.1 percent of new cases in 2021, and 5.6 percent of cancer deaths.
Childhood cancer statistics
- In 2020, an estimated 16,850 children and adolescents 19 and under were diagnosed with cancer.
- About 1,730 children died of the disease in 2020. After accidents, cancer is the second leading cause of death in children ages 1 to 14.
- Because of recent advances in treating childhood cancer, 84 percent now survive five years or more after a diagnose, compared with 58 percent in the mid 1970s.
Cancer is more treatable in adults
Cancer in adults has also become more treatable in the last 30 years.
- Though the rate of new breast cancer cases has remained about the same since 1992, the death rate of breast cancer has fallen considerably. In 1992, about 31.6 women out of 100,000 breast cancer patients died. In 2018, the death rate had fallen to less than 20.
- Prostate cancer cases have fallen more than half in the last 30 years, from 234.3 per 100,000 in 1992 to 106.8 in 2018. The death rate for prostate cancer during that time has also dropped, from 39.2 to 18.9.
- New cases of lung cancer declined from 67 per 100,000 people in 1992 to 43.2 in 2018. The rate of death improved from 58.9 to 34.8 during that period.
- Skin cancer cases have actually risen in 30 years, from 14.1 cases per 100,000 people in 1992 to 22.4 per 100,000 in 2018. The death rate fell slightly from 2.7 to 2.1.
- Ovarian cancer cases declined from 14.9 per 100,000 in 1992 to 9.6 in 2018. The death rate fell from 9.5 to 6.3.
- In 1992, cervical cancer afflicted 11 out of every 100,000 people. In 2018, it was seven out of 100,000. The death rate dropped from 3.5 to 2.2.
- Esophageal cancer has been one of the deadlier forms of the disease the last 30 years. Though it has afflicted between 3.8 and 4.5 of every 100,000 people since 1992, the death rate has consistently been between 3.8 and 4.2 during the same period. Less than 20 percent of sufferers between 2011 and 2017 have survived at least five years from diagnosis.
- The same is true of pancreatic cancer. New cases have grown from 11.2 per 100,000 people to 12.9 per 100,000 since 1992. The death rate has risen slightly from 10.7 to 11.
Why early cancer detection is so important
It’s well documented how important it is to diagnose cancer as early as possible. This is why doctors emphasize regular screenings. The latest statistics on survival rates for various types of cancer underscores the need for early detection.
The following are 5-year survival rates for certain types of cancer. Cancer diagnosed in stage 1, or when it’s localized, means it is found only in the part of the body where it started. Stage 1 cancer has a much higher survival rate. On the other hand, cancer has metastasized, also referred to as distant cancer, when it has spread to other parts of the body. When this occurs, it is much more difficult to treat.
- The 5-year relative survival for localized female breast cancer is 99 percent. The breast cancer survival rate falls to 29 percent when it spreads.
- The 5-year survival rate for stage 1 prostate cancer is 100 percent. Yet only 30.6 percent of prostate cancer patients live five years once it metastasizes.
- Localized lung cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 59.8 percent. Once it spreads, the survival rate plummets to 6.3 percent.
- Melanoma of the skin has a 5-year-survival rate of 99.4 percent in its localized stage, but 29.8 percent once it’s distant.
- With ovarian cancer, about 92.6 percent of patients survive at least five years when the disease is localized. Only 30.3 percent do so when it has metastasizes.
- The troubling aspect of ovarian cancer is that, unlike most cancers that are caught early, only 16 percent of cases are diagnosed at stage 1.
- Well more than half, 57 percent, of ovarian cancer diagnoses occur in the distant phase.
- That helps explain why the overall 5-year survival rate for ovarian cancer is just 49.1 percent.
- Cervical cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 91.9 percent when detected at stage 1. It’s only 17.6 percent once it’s spread.
- Only 17 percent of cases of esophageal cancer are diagnosed at stage 1. Of those, only 46.4 percent of patients survive at least five years. Distant esophageal cancer has only a 5.2 percent survival rate.
- For pancreatic cancer, only 11 percent of cases are diagnosed early. Of those, 41.6 percent survive five years. Pancreatic cancer that spreads has a 5-year survival rates of just 3 percent.
Cancer recurrence statistics
For those who survive cancer, recurrence is almost always a concern. Recurrence varies widely between cancer types. Selected recurrence rates include:
- 50 percent for bladder cancer after cystectomy
- 30 percent for breast cancer
- 17 percent for colorectal cancer
- Nearly 100 percent for glioblastoma
- 15 to 41 percent for melanoma, depending on stage
- 85 percent for ovarian cancer
- 36 percent for pancreatic cancer within a year after curative surgery
Joel Palmer is a freelance writer and personal finance expert who focuses on the mortgage, insurance, financial services, and technology industries. He spent the first 10 years of his career as a business and financial reporter.
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