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.
If you are looking for information about chances of surviving cancer and prognosis, see the Understanding Cancer Prognosis page.
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.
Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer in the United States
- In 2015, an estimated 1,658,370 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 589,430 people will die from the disease.
- The most common cancers in 2015 are projected to be breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectum cancer, bladder cancer, melanoma of the skin, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, thyroid cancer, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, and pancreatic cancer.
- The number of new cases of cancer (cancer incidence) is 454.8 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2008-2012 cases).
- The number of cancer deaths (cancer mortality) is 171.2 per 100,000 men and women per year (based on 2008-2012 deaths).
- Cancer mortality is higher among men than women (207.9 per 100,000 men and 145.4 per 100,000 women). It is highest in African American men (261.5 per 100,000) and lowest in Asian/Pacific Islander women (91.2 per 100,000). (Based on 2008-2012 deaths.)
- The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.
- Approximately 39.6 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2010-2012 data).
- In 2014, an estimated 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 were diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 died of the disease.
- National expenditures for cancer care in the United States totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010 and could reach $156 billion in 2020.
Statistics at a Glance: The Burden of Cancer Worldwide
- Cancer is among the leading causes of death worldwide. In 2012, there were 14 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide.
- The number of new cancer cases will rise to 22 million within the next two decades.
- More than 60 percent of the world’s new cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America; 70 percent of the world’s cancer deaths also occur in these regions.
The World Health Organization’s website has more information about cancer statistics across the world.
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.
In the United States, the overall cancer death rate has declined since the early 1990s. The most recent Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, published in March 2015, shows that from 2002 to 2011, cancer death rates decreased by:
- 1.8 percent per year among men
- 1.4 percent per year among women
- 2.1 percent per year among children ages 0-14
- 2.3 percent per year among children ages 0-19
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
NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program collects and publishes cancer incidence and survival data from population-based cancer registries that cover approximately 28 percent 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.