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US cancer survivors grows to nearly 12 million

  • Posted: March 10, 2011

The number of cancer survivors in the United States increased to 11.7 million in 2007, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. There were 3 million cancer survivors in 1971 and 9.8 million in 2001.

A cancer survivor is defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life.

The study, “Cancer Survivors in the United States, 2007,” is published today in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"It's good news that so many are surviving cancer and leading long, productive, and healthy lives," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  "Preventing cancer and detecting it early remain critically important as some cancers can be prevented or detected early enough to be effectively treated.  Not smoking, getting regular physical activity, eating healthy foods, and limiting alcohol use can reduce the risk of many cancers."

To determine the number of survivors, the authors analyzed the number of new cases and follow-up data from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program between 1971 and 2007. Population data from the 2006 and 2007 United States Census were also included. The researchers estimated the number of persons ever diagnosed with cancer who were alive on Jan. 1, 2007 (except non-melanoma skin cancers, which are fairly common and rarely fatal).

Study findings indicate:

  • Of the 11.7 million people living with cancer in 2007, 7 million were ages 65 years or older.
  • Women make up a large proportion of cancer survivors (54 percent).
  • Breast cancer survivors are the largest group of cancer survivors (22 percent), followed by prostate cancer survivors (19 percent) and colorectal cancer survivors (10 percent).
  • Among all survivors, 4.7 million received their diagnosis 10 or more years earlier.

“As the number of cancer survivors continues to increase, it is important for medical and public health professionals to be knowledgeable of issues survivors may face, especially the long-term effects of treatment on their physical and psychosocial well-being,” said Arica White, Ph.D., M.P.H., an epidemic intelligence service officer in CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “This understanding is critical in promoting good health and coordinating comprehensive care for cancer survivors.”

The authors note that the increase in number of cancer survivors is due to many factors, including a growing aging population, early detection, improved diagnostic methods, more effective treatment, and improved clinical follow-up after treatment.

“There is now a growing number of people who have faced a cancer diagnosis and what that means for them and their loved ones – from the time of diagnosis through the rest of their lives,” said Julia H. Rowland, Ph.D., director of NCI’s Office of Cancer Survivorship. “Unfortunately for many cancer survivors and those around them, the effect of cancer does not end with the last treatment.  Research has allowed us to scratch the surface of understanding the unique risks, issues, and concerns of this population. This report underscores the need for continued research, as well as for the development and implementation of best practices to provide optimal care and support for all cancer survivors.”

For the full report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/.

CDC works with public, non-profit, and private partners to create and implement strategies to help the millions of people in the United States who live with, through, and beyond cancer.  For more information about CDC’s survivorship efforts, visit http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/survivorship/.

NCI’s Office of Cancer Survivorship is dedicated to enhancing the length and quality of life of survivors and addressing their unique and poorly understood needs.  More information about the Office of Cancer Survivorship, as well as research tools, publications, and other resources, is available at http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/ocs/.

NCI leads the National Cancer Program and the NIH effort to dramatically reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families, through research into prevention and cancer biology, the development of new interventions, and the training and mentoring of new researchers. For more information about cancer, please visit the NCI Web site at www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

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