Government Agency Navigation

Cancer

Narrative

Cancer is the second leading cause of death for both men and women. It is estimated that 790,740 new cancer cases will be diagnosed among females and more than 275,000 females will die of cancer in 2012.1 Based on prior years, lung and bronchus cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death among females, accounting for 72,590 deaths (26 percent of all cancer deaths), followed by breast cancer, which will be responsible for 39,510 (14 percent of deaths). Colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer will also be major causes of cancer deaths among females, accounting for an additional 59,260 deaths combined.

Due to the varying survival rates for different types of cancer, the most common causes of death from cancer are not always the most common types of cancer. For instance, although lung and bronchus cancer causes the greatest number of deaths, breast cancer is more commonly diagnosed among females. In 2008, invasive breast cancer occurred among 121.9 per 100,000 females, whereas lung and bronchus cancer occurred in only 54.5 per 100,000. Other types of cancer that are commonly diagnosed but are not among the top 10 causes of cancer death include thyroid, melanoma, and cervical cancer.

Racial and ethnic disparities in cancer incidence may be explained by differences in behavioral risk factors, such as smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, obesity, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity that are largely a product of socioeconomic differences.1 Racial and ethnic disparities in cancer death rates tend to be even greater than disparities in incidence rates because they are a function of differences in incidence, as well as stage at diagnosis, treatment, and patient survival, which are greatly influenced by health care access and quality.

Recommended screening can help detect several forms of cancer in early, more treatable stages, including breast, colorectal, and cervical cancer, and is shown to reduce mortality.1 Vaccines are also available to help prevent hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV) which can cause liver and cervical cancer, respectively. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires health insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services, including cancer screenings and vaccinations, free-of-charge to beneficiaries.2

In 2005–2009, cervical cancer incidence rates ranged from 5.8 per 100,000 American Indian/Alaska Native females to 11.8 per 100,000 Hispanic females. For Black, Hispanic, and Asian/ Pacific Islander females, cervical cancer incidence increased with age, which may indicate a lack of early screening and treatment that can prevent invasive cancer from developing. The Pap test, a cervical cell examination, is recommended every 3 years for women aged 21–65 years to screen for precancerous lesions and cervical cancer.3 Precancerous lesions and early, localized invasive cervical cancer are highly treatable; however, about half of invasive cervical cancer cases are not detected in the early, localized stage.1

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women but is also highly treatable when diagnosed early; 99 percent of women will survive 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis in the early, localized stage. Mammography screening is universally recommended every other year for women aged 50–74 years.3 In 2005–2009, the proportion of breast cancer cases detected in the early, localized stage ranged from 54.5 percent among Black women to 65.2 percent among non-Hispanic White women. Disparities in early detection, as well as stage-specific survival, contribute to overall survival differences by race and ethnicity. In 2004–2008, more than 90 percent of non-Hispanic White and Asian/Pacific Islander women survived 5 years after breast cancer diagnosis, compared to about 80 percent of Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2011. Accessed 07/13/12.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventive Services Covered Under the Affordable Care Act. Accessed 07/13/12.

3 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Recommendations for Adults. Accessed 07/13/12.

Graphs

Data

Leading Causes of Cancer Deaths Among Females (All Ages), by Site, 2011 Estimates

Number of Deaths:

  • Lung and Bronchus: 72,590
  • Breast: 39,510
  • Colon and Rectum: 25,220
  • Pancreas: 18,540
  • Ovary: 15,500
  • Leukemia: 10,040
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: 8,620
  • Uterine Corpus: 8,010
  • Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct: 6,570
  • Brain and Other Nervous System: 5,980

Source: American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2012. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2012. Accessed 06/21/12.

Age-Adjusted Invasive Cancer Incidence Rates per 100,000 Females (All Ages), by Site and Race/Ethnicity, 2008
Type of Cancer Rate per 100,000 Females
Invasive Cancer Rate Rank White* Black* Hispanic† American Indian/Alaska Native*† Asian/Pacific Islander*†
*May include Hispanics.
†Estimates should be interpreted with caution. Source: U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2008 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute; 2011. Accessed 06/21/12.
Breast 121.9 1 122.6 118.0 92.8 65.6 87.9
Lung and Bronchus 54.5 2 56.2 49.4 26.4 38.9 26.8
Colon and Rectum 38.7 3 37.6 46.0 31.5 27.3 31.1
Uterine Corpus 24.4 4 24.8 22.6 20.4 14.2 16.6
Thyroid 18.6 5 19.4 11.2 18.1 9.4 19.4
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 15.9 6 16.3 10.9 14.9 10.2 11.0
Melanoma 15.1 7 17.2 0.9 4.1 3.5 1.0
Ovary 12.2 8 12.6 9.3 11.2 9.0 9.2
Kidney 11.1 9 11.1 12.5 11.1 11.3 5.1
Pancreas 10.5 10 10.1 13.9 10.0 6.8 7.9
Invasive Cervical Cancer Incidence Among Females, by Race/Ethnicity and Age, 2005-2009*
Age Group Rate per 100,000 Females
Non-Hispanic White Black** Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native** Asian/Pacific Islander**
*All rates are age-adjusted; total includes females of all ages.
**May include Hispanics. Source: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, SEER*Stat Database: Incidence - SEER 18 Regs Research Data + Hurricane Katrina Impacted Louisiana Cases, Nov 2011 Sub, Vintage 2009 Pops (2000-2009) <Katrina/Rita Population Adjustment> National Cancer Institute, DCCPS, Surveillance Research Program, Surveillance Systems Branch, released April 2012, based on the November 2011 submission.
Total 7.1 9.8 11.8 5.8 7.2
20-44 Years 9.6 9.1 12.3 7.7 5.9
45-64 Years 11.0 16.8 20.5 8.5 13.9
65 Years and Older 9.3 21.5 21.5 8.5 15.2
Stage* at Breast Cancer Diagnosis Among Females, by Race/Ethnicity, 2005-2009
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Females with Breast Cancer
Localized Regional Distant
*Localized cancer is limited to the organ in which it began (no evidence of spread); regional cancer has spread beyond the primary site; distant cancer has spread to distant organs or lymph nodes; percentages may not total to 100 due to rounding.
**May include Hispanics. Source: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, SEER*Stat Database: Incidence - SEER 18 Regs Research Data + Hurricane Katrina Impacted Louisiana Cases, Nov 2011 Sub, Vintage 2009 Pops (2000-2009) <Katrina/Rita Population Adjustment> National Cancer Institute, DCCPS, Surveillance Research Program, Surveillance Systems Branch, released April 2012, based on the November 2011 submission.
Non-Hispanic White 65.2 29.8 5.0
Black** 54.5 36.9 8.6
Hispanic 57.5 36.9 5.7
American Indian/Alaska Native** 59.7 34.1 6.3
Asian/Pacific Islander** 64.4 30.9 4.7