Common Cancers Types, List of Risk and Death Rates

Most of us are aware about cancer and some types occur more frequently than others. Cancer is not a “new” condition and has probably afflicted mankind throughout the ages. However, it has only been in the last 50 years that cancer has been thrust into the spotlight as medical science reveals more about what causes this deadly disease, as well as discovers new ways to diagnose and treat it.

Is cancer becoming more common?

Certain cancers are on the rise for various known and unknown reasons. Some include dietary and lifestyle factors, environmental pollution and the use of certain substances. Even some rare cancers have become common these days due to new illnesses, for example Kaposi sarcoma is more frequently seen with the HIV epidemic. However, there are also certain cancers that have become less common, particularly over the past 20 years.

Despite the advances in cancer treatment in recent years, prevention is still better than cure. By understanding which cancers are common and how it may be caused, certain measures may be able to prevent it. Furthermore, regular screening resulting in early diagnosis can identify pre-cancerous lesions. It can be treated before it becomes cancerous, thereby essentially preventing the cancer.

Are all cancers deadly?

All cancers can be life-threatening, particularly when cancer cells break away from the site where it originates an spreads throughout the body (metastasis). However, greater awareness about cancer, regular screening, early diagnosis and modern cancer treatments can drastically reduce the risk of death from cancer. This varies based on a number of factors ranging from the type of cancer and screening or health care facilities available.

Read more on cancer treatment FAQ.

Top 10 Most Common Cancers

Based on cancer statistics, these are the expected top 10 most common cancers in the United States for 2016.

  • Breast cancer (women)
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer (men)
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Bladder cancer
  • Melanoma (skin cancer)
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia (all types)

To qualify as a commmon cancer, there has to be over 40,000 new cases for a year. This information has been sourced from the National Cancer Institute¹ based on statistics reported by the American Cancer Society².

Most Deadliest Cancers in Men and Women

The most common cancers are not always the deadliest cancers. Some types are more aggressive than others or have higher degree of recurrence. Delayed diagnosis and inadequate treatment may also make a cancer more deadly. Remember that even the most deadliest cancers do not lead to death in every person who develops this specific cancer and undergoes the appropriate treatment.

  • Men:
    – Lung cancer
    – Prostate cancer
    – Colorectal cancer
  • Women:
    – Lung cancer
    – Breast cancer
    – Colorectal cancer

Read more on how serious is a cancer.

Types of Cancer New Cases and Rates

These are the top 5 most common cancers in the Unites States, along with the number of new cases that may arise in 2016 as well as the estimated deaths from these cancers. The risk factors have also been discussed individually for each cancer. It is important to note that radiation exposure in any form can significantly increase the risk of any cancer and has therefore not been listed individually.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer continues to be the most commonly diagnosed life-threatening cancer in women across the globe. It is estimated that there will be almost 250,000 new breast cancer cases among females in the United States for 2016. Comparatively male breast cancer cases will be approximately 1% of that figure at around 2,600 for 2016. The estimated number of deaths will be approximately 40,000 and 400 respectively for females and males.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

  • Advancing age (40 years or older)
  • Personal history (previous history of breast cancer)
  • Family history (direct blood relative with breast cancer)
  • Genetic mutations (such as BRCA1 and BRCA2)
  • Early menarche (before age 12)
  • Late menopause
  • First child after 35 years
  • Never being pregnant
  • Hormone replacent therapy (HRT)

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer remains the most common cancer that is not gender specific. It is closely associated with cigarette smoking but non-smokers may also be at risk, even without exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke . It is estimated that there will be almost 225,000 new cases of lung cancer in the United States with approximately 158,000 lung cancer related deaths in 2016.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

  • Tobacco smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Radon gas
  • Asbestos exposure
  • Repeated inhalation of organic and non-organic dust usually with occupation exposure.
  • Family history of lung cancer

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer remains the most common male cancer in the United States. Almost 1 in 5 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime although rates vary slightly by ethnicity. Approximately 180,000 American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016 and there will be around 26,000 deaths attributed to prostate cancer within the year.

Risk Factors for Prostate Cancer

  • Advancing age (over 50 years of age in particular)
  • Obesity
  • Family history of prostate cancer

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States that is not gender specific. It is the second most common cancer in women and the third most common cancer in men. Colorectal cancer has been on the decline over the past two decades. However, there will be approximately 134,000 new cases of colorectal cancer (colon cancer and rectal cancer combined) in the United States with almost 50,000 related deaths in 2016.

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

  • Advancing age (older than 50 years)
  • History of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Diseases like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Inherited syndromes
  • Dietary factors like low fiber and high fat intake
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Sedentary lifestyle

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer is three times more likely to occur in men than women. The incidence of bladder cancer in men has remained relatively stable in the past two decades with a slight increase in females during this time. There will be approximately 77,000 new cases diagnosed in 2016 with about 17,000 deaths occurring from bladder cancer in the United States within the year.

Risk Factors for Bladder Cancer

  • Advancing age (rare before 40 years of age)
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Repeated UTIs (urinary tract infections)
  • Family history of bladder cancer
  • Exposure to chemicals like arsenic
  • Certain drugs like cyclophosphamide (for cancer) and pioglitazone (for diabetes)
  • Chronic schistosomiasis infection.



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