Lung, colorectal, female breast, liver, and pancreatic cancers are the deadliest cancers in the U.S. Here’s what you need to know about them.
In the United States, over 1.5 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year. While every cancer is dangerous, certain types of cancer are more deadly each year than others. The deadliest cancers in the United States are lung, colorectal, pancreatic, female breast, liver, and prostate cancer. Keep in mind that the reason so many people die from cancer is because it is so common, and often is diagnosed late. However, with early or aggressive treatment, cancer is often survivable.
Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States, with over 200,000 new cases diagnosed every year. This is just over 13 percent of all new cancer cases in the country.
Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in the United States, according to statistics gathered by the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is responsible for about a quarter of all cancer deaths in the U.S., killing around 150,000 people every year.
Smoking causes about 80 percent of lung cancer deaths. Other risk factors include exposure to asbestos and radon, arsenic in drinking water, and a family history of lung cancer.
Colorectal cancer develops in the rectum and large intestine. It is the third most common cancer in the United States. Over 130,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed every year, which is about 8 percent of all cancer cases. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., killing more than 50,000 people every year.
Eating a diet that is high in fat and red meat, but low in fruits and vegetables, increases your risk for colorectal cancer, as does being overweight, smoking, and excessive drinking of alcohol. It primarily affects people over age 50, so the CDC recommends that men and women ages 50 to 75 be regularly screened for signs of colorectal cancer.
Pancreatic cancer develops in the pancreas, an organ near the stomach that secretes digestive hormones. Pancreatic cancer only accounts for about 3.2 percent of all new cancer cases in the U.S., around 50,000 per year. But it is the third deadliest cancer in the United States, causing close to 7 percent of all cancer deaths. That is equal to just under 45,000 deaths per year.
Researchers have found that pancreatic cancer is especially deadly because there are few early symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose when treatment is most effective. Because of this, it is important to know whether you are at risk for pancreatic cancer. Risk factors include a family history of cancer, genetic predisposition to breast or colorectal cancer, chronic pancreatitis, liver cirrhosis, diabetes, smoking, and being overweight.
Female breast cancer
Though breast cancer can affect both men and women, it is much more likely to be found in women. Each year, around 250,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer. This is about 15 percent of all new cancer diagnoses, making it the most common cancer in the country. Over 12 percent of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
Female breast cancer is the fourth deadliest cancer in the U.S., causing nearly 7 percent of all cancer deaths. Each year, over 40,000 women die from breast cancer. It is the most common cancer in women, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
Risk factors include a family history of breast cancer, going through menopause after age 55, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough physical activity, smoking, or using hormone replacement therapy after menopause.
About 40,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer every year in the United States. Though liver cancer is still less common than many forms of cancer, rates are rising in the U.S., increasing almost 38 percent from 2003 to 2012. Liver cancer is the fifth deadliest cancer in the United States, causing nearly 30,000 deaths every year.
The most common risk factor for liver cancer is a chronic viral infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Other risk factors include liver cirrhosis, excessive alcohol consumption, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men, after skin cancer, and one of the four most common cancers in the United States. About 160,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.
Even though survival rates for prostate cancer are relatively high, it is the sixth deadliest cancer in the U.S., causing about 4 percent of cancer deaths. Every year, more than 25,000 men die from prostate cancer.
A family history of cancer increases your risk of developing the disease. It is rare in men younger than 40, so the CDC recommends that men older than 50 be regularly checked for prostate cancer.
March 31, 2020
Christopher Nystuen, MD, MBA