Cancer is not one disease, but a collection of related diseases that can occur almost anywhere in the body. At its most basic, cancer is a disease of the genes in the cells of our body. Genes control the way our cells work. But, changes to these genes can cause cells to malfunction, causing them to grow and divide when they should not—or preventing them from dying when they should. These abnormal cells can become cancer.
Understanding how genetic changes cause cancer is one way to understand this disease, while cancer statistics is another. Cancer statistics help scientists understand the burden of cancer on society. Statistics can tell us things such as how many people are diagnosed with and die from cancer each year and the number of people who are living after a cancer diagnosis. Changes in statistics over time can help scientists find areas where progress is needed.
Cancer statistics also help scientists understand cancer health disparities. Examples of disparities include the higher cancer death rates, less frequent use of proven screening tests, and higher rates of advanced cancer diagnoses that are found in certain groups of people.