Cancer has a major impact on society in the United States and across the world. Cancer statistics describe what happens in large groups of people and provide a picture in time of the burden of cancer on society. Statistics tell us things such as how many people are diagnosed with and die from cancer each year, the number of people who are currently living after a cancer diagnosis, the average age at diagnosis, and the numbers of people who are still alive at a given time after diagnosis. They also tell us about differences among groups defined by age, sex, racial/ethnic group, geographic location, and other categories.
Statistics at a Glance
Although statistical trends are usually not directly applicable to individual patients, they are essential for governments, policy makers, health professionals, and researchers to understand the impact of cancer on the population and to develop strategies to address the challenges that cancer poses to the society at large. Statistical trends are also important for measuring the success of efforts to control and manage cancer.
The Burden of Cancer in the United States
- In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease
- The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018) are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, melanoma of the skin, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer
- The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 439.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 cases)
- The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 163.5 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2011–2015 deaths)
- Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (196.8 per 100,000 men and 139.6 per 100,000 women). When comparing groups based on race/ethnicity and sex, cancer mortality is highest in African American men (239.9 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (88.3 per 100,000)
- In 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026
- Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data)
- In 2017, an estimated 15,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 died of the disease
- Estimated national expenditures for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion. In future years, costs are likely to increase as the population ages and cancer prevalence increases. Costs are also likely to increase as new, and often more expensive, treatments are adopted as standards of care
U.S. Cancer Mortality Trends
The best indicator of progress against cancer is a change in age-adjusted mortality (death) rates, although other measures, such as quality of life, are also important. Incidence is also important, but it is not always straightforward to interpret changes in incidence. For example, if a new screening test detects many cancer cases that would never have caused a problem during someone’s life (called overdiagnosis), the incidence of that cancer would appear to increase even though the death rates do not change. But a rise in incidence can also reflect a real increase in disease, as is the case when an increase in exposure to a risk factor causes more cases of cancer. In this scenario the increased incidence would likely lead to a rise in mortality from the cancer.
From 1991 to 2015, the overall cancer death rate in the United States fell 26 percent.
In the United States, the overall cancer death rate has declined since the early 1990s. The most recent SEER Cancer Statistics Review, released in April 2018, shows that cancer death rates decreased by:
- 1.8% per year among men from 2006 to 2015
- 1.4% per year among women from 2006 to 2015
- 1.4% per year among children ages 0–19 from 2011 to 2015
Although death rates for many individual cancer types have also declined, rates for a few cancers have stabilized or even increased.
As the overall cancer death rate has declined, the number of cancer survivors has increased. These trends show that progress is being made against the disease, but much work remains. Although rates of smoking, a major cause of cancer, have declined, the U.S. population is aging, and cancer rates increase with age. Obesity, another risk factor for cancer, is also increasing.
The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program
National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program collects and publishes cancer incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries that cover approximately 28% of the U.S. population. The SEER program website has more detailed cancer statistics, including population statistics for common types of cancer, customizable graphs and tables, and interactive tools.
The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer provides an annual update of cancer incidence, mortality, and trends in the United States. This report is jointly authored by experts from NCI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.