This trend is underscored by annual cancer deaths. While age-adjusted cancer deaths grew by roughly 50,000 between 1999 and 2019, the annual mortality rate fell from 200.7 to 146.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the age-adjusted rate of new cancer cases fell by an average of 0.7% over 2010-2019, while age-adjusted death rates declined by 1.8% per year over 2011-2020.
Similarly, the five-year relative survival rate for cancer patients increased from 50% in 1975 to 70.3% in 2014. Models show it’s still growing.
What are the most common types of cancer?
Between 2015-2019, there were approximately 8.6 million new cancer cases and nearly 3 million cancer-related deaths nationwide. Of these, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer were the most common, while lung cancer, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer were responsible for the greatest share of deaths.
However, mortality rates vary depending on the type of cancer.
For instance, while breast cancer is estimated to have caused the fourth highest number of cancer-related deaths in 2022, it had the fifth highest relative survival rate between 2012–2018. By contrast, esophagus cancer is estimated to have caused fewer than 20,000 deaths in 2022 but had one of the lowest relative survival rates between 2012–2018.
Other factors, such as sex, race, ethnicity, and age can lead to differences in cancer risk among groups of people due to genetics, hormones, environmental exposures, and more.
According to 2019 NCI data, approximately 16.6 million Americans had cancer that year, with 54.3% of patients being female and 45.7% male. This amounted to 5.1% of the total US population at the time.
Prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers were approximately 43% of new cancer cases for men in 2020. Breast, lung, and colorectal cancers were estimated to account for 50% of new cancer cases for women the same year.
The annual rate of new cancers was higher among men than women from 2015–2019 at 488.3 per 100,000 men compared to 423.3 per 100,000 women. That also applies to the mortality rate during the same period: 181.4 per 100,000 men and 131.1 per 100,000 women.
In 2020 non-Hispanic, Black Americans had the highest cancer mortality rate at 166.8 per 100,000 people, while non-Hispanic Asian/Pacific Islander Americans had the lowest mortality rate at 91.4 per 100,000 people.
When also accounting for race and ethnicity, Non-Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native face an increased annual rate of new cancers, despite the rate decreasing for every other measured racial and ethnic group.
Advancing age is a decisive cancer risk factor. The incidence rate for cancer cases steadily grows as age increases, with fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 people in age groups under 19, 360.8 cases per 100,000 adults ages 45-49, to more than 2,000 cases per 100,000 adults 75 and older.
According to NCI data, the median age of cancer diagnosis is 66 years. However, cancer can be diagnosed at any age, and certain cancer types may be more prevalent among specific age groups. Early cancer screenings can diagnose potential diseases, helping to lower mortality rates over time, as is the case for prostate cancer in recent years.
Which states have the highest cancer rates?
In 2019, Kentucky had the nation’s highest age-adjusted rate of new cancers at 504.9 per 100,000 people, followed by Iowa at 494.1 and Louisiana at 490. Arizona had the lowest rate of new cancers at 358.7 per 100,000 people, then New Mexico 366.5 and the territory of Puerto Rico at 367.8. (The CDC has collected cancer data for Puerto Rico since 2005 but does not have extensive data on other US territories.)
Mississippi had the highest cancer mortality rate at 178.8 per 100,000 people, followed by Kentucky at 176.1 and West Virginia at 173.7. Conversely, Puerto Rico had the lowest cancer mortality rate at 104 per 100,000, trailed by Utah at 117.8 and Colorado at 126.
Several factors explain these differences in cancer rates across states. For instance, adults in Appalachian counties are more likely to smoke and have a higher likelihood of related cancers resulting in high rates of cancer in states like Kentucky.
Other factors, including the quality of healthcare, obesity, environmental exposures, and more also affect the rate of new cancers and cancer-related deaths across states and territories.