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The number of incident cases of the cancers most common in men and women has jumped since 1990, while lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US.

SEATTLE – Breast cancer continues to account for the highest number of new cancer cases among women in the US, and prostate cancer has the highest number of incident cancer cases for men, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Oncology. But lung cancer claims the lives of the most men and women.

The number of new prostate cancer cases in the US more than doubled between 1990 and 2013 and was among the highest in the world, up from 148,000 to 377,000. During this period breast cancer cases rose by almost half, from 173,000 to 254,000. 

Among the 10 leading causes of cancer incidence among men, lung cancer had the lowest increase since 1990 at 16% and prostate cancer the highest at 154%. For women, ovarian cancer had the lowest increase in the number of new cases during this period at 30%, and kidney cancer had one of the highest increases at 99%. 

Published on May 28, the study, “The Global Burden of Cancer 2013,” was conducted by an international consortium of researchers coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

In the US, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths for men as well as women. Deaths from this form of cancer far outnumbered deaths from other cancers in the US, at 176,000 in 2013.

“Cancer remains a major threat to people’s health around the world,” said oncologist Dr. Christina Fitzmaurice, a Visiting Fellow at IHME and lead author of the study. “Controlling cancer will ensure that as life expectancy continues to climb, people’s lives are not just longer but healthier.”

For the leading causes of cancer deaths among US men, deaths from liver cancer increased by 119%, compared to the 17% increase from lung cancer, which was the smallest increase. A similar pattern was true for women as liver cancer replaced cervical cancer as one of the leading causes of cancer deaths since 1990. Deaths from liver cancer in women jumped by 108%, while stomach cancer showed the smallest increase at 5%. 

The US differed from most other countries with respect to new cases of liver cancer and cervical cancer. Liver cancer ranked in the top 10 for incident cases in most of the 50 largest countries in the world but ranked 18th in the US. Similarly, cervical cancer was also one of the leading causes of new cancer cases worldwide but ranked 20th in the US. Compared to many other countries where cervical cancer is among the leading causes of cancer deaths in women, it ranks only 18th in the US.

In 2013, there were 14.9 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer deaths worldwide. The leading cause of cancer incidence for men was prostate cancer, which caused 1.4 million new cases and 293,000 deaths. Lung cancer remained one of the leading causes of incident cancer cases among men between 1990 and 2013, but prostate cancer cases have increased more than threefold during this period due in part to population growth and aging.

For women, similar factors contributed to the rise in breast cancer incidence. In 2013 there were 1.8 million new cases of breast cancer and 464,000 deaths. Breast cancer has remained the leading cause of incident cancer cases for women between 1990 and 2013, but the number of new cases more than doubled during this period. 

Other leading causes of incident cases globally include cervical cancer, up 9% since 1990, lymphoma, up 105%, and colon and rectum cancer, which has increased 92%. 

The death toll from cancer is also changing as new cases increase. In 2013 cancer was the second-leading cause of death globally after cardiovascular disease, and the proportion of deaths around the world due to cancer has increased from 12% in 1990 to 15% in 2013. Lung cancer, stomach cancer, and liver cancer have remained the three leading causes of cancer for both sexes combined during this period. Lung cancer deaths have increased by 56%, stomach cancer deaths by 10%, and liver cancer by 60%. 

Cancer is often seen as a problem primarily in more affluent nations, but the disease is an issue in developing countries as well as developed countries. Even though breast cancer remains the leading cause of incident cancer cases for women globally, in developed countries incidence rates have been stable or declining since the early 2000s. The reverse is true in developing countries, where incidence rates are lower but rising faster than in developed countries. 

The rankings for developed and developing countries are largely the same when it comes to number of cancer deaths for both sexes, though there are some notable differences. Cervical cancer ranks seventh in developing countries, compared to 17th in developed countries, and prostate cancer ranks 12th in developing countries but sixth in developed countries. Cervical cancer has a particularly significant impact in sub-Saharan Africa, where it’s the most commonly diagnosed cancer in almost two dozen countries in the region, including Ghana, Nigeria, and Zambia, and the most common cause of cancer death for women in 40 countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. 

Although cancer is a global phenomenon, countries around the world show important variations. In China, stomach cancer, not breast cancer, is the second-most common cause of cancer death for women. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for men in United Arab Emirates and Qatar rather than prostate cancer. Mouth cancer, which is not prominent globally, is the second-most diagnosed cancer in India. Japan, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden are the only countries in the world where colon and rectum cancer was the most deadly form of cancer for women.  

“The most effective strategies to address cancer will be tailored to local needs,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “Country-specific data can drive policies aimed to reduce the impact of cancer now and in the future.”

Leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States for both sexes, with the number of deaths, 2013

1

Lung cancer

176,187

2

Colorectal cancer

68,003

3

Breast cancer

45,299

4

Pancreatic cancer

43,749

5

Prostate cancer

37,950

6

Lymphoma

26,723

7

Other neoplasms

26,372

8

Leukemia

24,060

9

Liver cancer

19,653

10

Stomach cancer

17,657

Leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States for men, with the number of deaths, 2013

1

Lung cancer

100,723

2

Prostate cancer

37,950

3

Colorectal cancer

34,926

4

Pancreatic cancer

21,964

5

Lymphoma

14,906

6

Leukemia

14,061

7

Other neoplasms

12,908

8

Liver cancer

12,825

9

Esophageal cancer

12,393

10

Bladder cancer

10,937

Leading causes of cancer deaths in the United States for women, with the number of deaths, 2013

1

Lung cancer

75,464

2

Breast cancer

44,768

3

Colorectal cancer

33,076

4

Pancreatic cancer

21,785

5

Ovarian cancer

17,376

6

Other neoplasms

13,464

7

Lymphoma

11,817

8

Leukemia

9,999

9

Stomach cancer

7,281

10

Liver cancer

6,828

Download the study at http://oncology.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.0735.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. IHME makes this information widely available so that policymakers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about how to allocate resources to best improve population health.
 

Media contact:

William Heisel
+1-206-897-2886
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