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Top Cancers and Other Cancer Facts

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Cancer related image Photo: Getty Images

Cancer is the name given to a group of approximately 100 diseases that are the result of abnormal cell growth. Cancer is named for the type of tissue where the cells initially began to grow out of control.

Some cancers are caused by genetic mutations during conception before a baby is born. Other cancers are the result of environmental or other factors that cause cells to become abnormal, such as cigarette smoke which can damage lung cells and lead to lung cancer.

Knowing the facts and statistics for cancer can help patients and healthcare providers understand the risks and probabilities of various types of cancer.

New Cancer Numbers

In the United States, cancer is the second most common cause of death, surpassed only by heart disease. One out of every four deaths is the result of cancer.

That adds up to an expected 571,950 deaths in 2011, or more than 1,500 people every day. Nearly 1,600,000 new cases of cancer are expected to be reported this year.

This number does not include an additional 3.5 million cases of certain types of skin cancer, which are not required to be reported. It also does not include cases of carcinoma in situ, which is a pre-cancerous condition that is very likely to develop into cancer if not treated. (Wiley Online Library)

Cancer and Gender

Cancer statistics show that men are slightly more likely to develop cancer during their lifetimes than are women. In the United States, men have nearly a 1 in 2 risk of developing cancer at some point in their lives. Women have just over a 1 in 3 risk.

This means that one out of every three women will probably have some type of cancer during her life. The good news is that overall, cancer rates declined from 2003 to 2007 at a rate of just under 1 percent per year. Overall, the number of deaths caused by cancer has been decreasing since the early 1990s. (American Cancer Society)

Other cancer facts show that men and women are at higher risk for different types of cancer. These are the top 10 cancers for women from highest to lowest risk:

• Breast
• Lung
• Colon & rectum
• Uterus
• Thyroid
• Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
• Melanoma
• Ovary
• Kidney
• Pancreas

Women can reduce the risk of breast cancer by getting annual mammograms as recommended by their healthcare professional for early detection.

Although breast cancer is by far the most common cancer found in women, lung cancer is the most frequent cause of cancer death. Many cases of lung cancer could be prevented by not smoking or using other tobacco products.

These are the top 10 cancers for men:

• Prostate
• Lung
• Colon & rectum
• Urinary bladder
• Melanoma
• Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
• Kidney
• Oral cavity & pharynx
• Leukemia
• Pancreas

As with women, lung cancer ranks second in number of cases, but is the most likely type of cancer to be fatal in men.

Cancer and Age

Anyone of any age is at risk for cancer. In general, the longer you are alive, the higher the risk of developing cancer.

Most cancers are found in middle-aged adults with 78 percent of all cancer diagnosed after age 55. Although men have a higher overall chance of developing cancer, women are more likely to develop cancer earlier in life due to the earlier median age at the onset of breast cancer. (American Cancer Society)

Children are not immune to the effects of cancer. In 2007, approximately 10,400 children were diagnosed with cancer. Overall, 1 to 2 children out of every 10,000 in the U.S. will develop cancer each year. The most common types of cancer in children are leukemias and brain tumors. (National Cancer Institute)

As cancer research provides new ways to detect cancer early and more ways to treat cancer effectively, the odds of surviving cancer continue to rise. Only 50 percent of patients diagnosed in the mid-1970s survived the disease.

That number is now up to a 68 percent survival rate for patients diagnosed between 1999 and 2006. These cancer statistics show the importance of early detection of cancer and the continuing need for research into cancer treatments and prevention.


Wiley Online Library: CA – A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Cancer statistics, 2011. Rebecca Siegel MPH. Web. October 9, 2011.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2011. Web. October 9, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Many Cancer Rates Continue to Decline. Web. October 9, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Top 10 Cancers Among Women. Web. October 9, 2011.

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Top 10 Cancers Among Men. Web. October 9, 2011.

National Cancer Institute. Childhood Cancers. Web. October 9, 2011.

Reviewed October 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.