Some Cancer Stats

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   But the CDC’s categorization can be deceiving as it lumps all forms of cancer together, and in reality there is not one disease called cancer. Lung cancer is different from bladder cancer which is different from myeloma.  There are upwards of a hundred different illnesses included in the broad cancer category.

Survival rates vary widely across cancer types. About 1.7 million cases of cancer are diagnosed in the US every year, and 18 million worldwide. Over 600,000 people die from cancer in the US (over 1 out of 5 deaths) and 9.6 million worldwide (1 out of 6 deaths). Cancer is the leading cause of death for Americans under age 65.  The median age at diagnosis is 66 years. The most common type of cancer is breast cancer or skin cancer, depending on how you classify things – Some epidemiologists separate melanoma from squamous cell skin cancer. Prostate cancer is also common, but breast and prostate cancers have high survival rates. The US government estimates 18 million cancer survivors live in the country today.

The cancer that causes the highest number of deaths is lung cancer. By a wide margin. An estimated 142,000 people die from lung cancer in the United States every year. That’s more than die from colorectal cancer (51K ), pancreatic cancer (46K) and breast cancer (42K) combined. Worldwide, lung cancer is also the leading cause of cancer mortality, with liver cancer second. The federal government projects US Deaths in 2021 Lung cancer – 131,880 Colorectal cancer – 52,980 Pancreatic cancer – 48,220 Breast cancer – 44,130 One interesting statistic is the 5-year survival rate which differs considerably among types of cancer. In the US, two thirds of patients are still alive 5 years after diagnosis. For prostrate cancer, the five-year survival rate is over 98 percent (US numbers). For pancreatic cancer, it is only 8.2 percent.   The 10-year survival rate is about 50 percent across all types of cancer.

Rates of Chemotherapy for Different Cancer Types – A Selection

The American Cancer Society’s report on Cancer Treatment and Survivorship, 2019 to 2021 gives estimates of the percentage of cancer patients who receive some sort of chemotherapy for selected cancer types.

Breast cancer Stage 2 – 17% of patients receive chemotherapy Stage 3 – 62% Stage 4 – 66%

Non small cell lung cancer Stage 2 – 18% Stage 3 – 67% Stage 4 – 53%

Testicular cancer Stage 1 – 17% Stage 2 – 65% Stage 3 – 86%

Urinary bladder cancer Stage 0 – 33% Stage 1 – 50% Stage 2 – 55% Stage 3 – 61% Stage 4 – 60%

Uterine cancer Stage 1 – 11% Stage 2 – 31% Stage 3 – 75% Stage 4 – 73%

Trend: More Cancer and More Survival

In recent decades, more and more people are getting cancer, with the rate expected to get to one out of two people (lifetime) in the near future, at least in the United States.  At the same time, cancer is not as scary as it once was as it has become more survivable.  With the promise of personalized therapy, survivability may increase even further in the near future.

Some scientists feel age-adjusted cancer rates have not changed since the Stone Age – the reason more people get cancer now is that we don’t die of other causes.  Other experts feel the modern world has exposed us to more carcinogens – chemicals, radiation from medical tests and plane flights.

An article in The Economist said experts expect the rate of cancer incidence to increase by 70 percent in the next 20 years.