The Burden of Cancer
Every year, cancer kills more than half a million Americans. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. According to pre-release data from United States Cancer Statistics: 2006 Incidence and Mortality, which tracks cancer incidence for about 96% of the U.S. population and mortality for the entire country, more than 559,000 Americans died of cancer and more than 1.37 million had a diagnosis of cancer in 2006. The financial costs of cancer are overwhelming. According to the National Institutes of Health, cancer cost the United States an estimated $228 billion in 2008.
Racial and Ethnic Differences
Cancer does not affect all races and ethnicities equally. African Americans are more likely to die of cancer than people of any other racial or ethnic group. In 2006, the age-adjusted death rate for both sexes per 100,000 people for all types of cancer combined was 219 for African Americans, 180 for whites, 120 for American Indians/Alaska Natives, 119 for Hispanics,and 108 for Asians/Pacific Islanders.
Effective Cancer Prevention Measures
The number of new cancer cases can be reduced, and many cancer deaths can be prevented. Research shows that screening for cervical and colorectal cancers as recommended helps prevent these diseases by finding precancerous lesions so they can be treated before they become cancerous. Screening for cervical, colorectal, and breast cancers also helps find these diseases at an early, often highly treatable stage.
A person's cancer risk can be reduced by receiving regular medical care, avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol use, avoiding excessive exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active [see also our Reduce Your Risk of Cancer page].
Vaccines also help reduce cancer risk. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine helps prevent most cervical cancers and some vaginal and vulvar cancers, and the hepatitis B vaccine can help reduce liver cancer risk. Making cancer screening, information, and referral services available and accessible to all Americans can reduce cancer incidence and deaths.
Preventable Cancers (this information provided by the Prevent Cancer Foundation)
Research suggests that only five percent of cancers are hereditary. That means the non-inherited causes of cancer - the lifestyle choices we make, the foods we eat, and our physical activity levels - have a direct impact on our overall cancer risk.
The American Cancer Society reports that half of all men and one-third of all women will develop cancer in their lifetimes. Do what you can to avoid becoming a part of these statistics. Take steps to reduce your risk for cancer now [see our Reduce Your Risk of Cancer page].
The below cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes or early detection and treatment (click on cancer name for more information):