Your Lifetime Risk of Cancer

I have good news and bad news.  Which would you like first?

The good news is that cancer death rates in the U.S. have dropped over the last 20 years.  The reduction is 18% for men and 10% for women.

The bad news is that the American Cancer Society projects around 600,000 yearly deaths from cancer in the U.S.

If we look at deaths of people under 85, cancer kills more people than heart disease.

In men, 25% of all invasive cancers will be prostate cancer.  In women, breast cancer is the leader, comprising 26% of all cancers.  (Common skin cancers are rarely invasive or fatal and are not included in these statistics.  Melanoma, on the other hand, is invasive and dangerous.)

The lifetime probability of an individual developing invasive cancer in the U.S. is about 4 in 10 (40%).  A little higher in men (45%), a little lower in women (38%).

Obesity is associated with higher risk for kidney and esophageal cancer in both sexes, prostate and colo-rectal cancer in men, and uterine, gallbladder, cervical, ovarian and breast cancer in women.  Excess body fat causes  14 to 20% of all cancer-related deaths in the U.S.  It’s reasonable to believe that reducing excess body fat will lower the risk of developing these cancers.

The traditional Mediterranean diet is associated with less risk of prostate, breast, colon, and uterus cancer.  And lower rates of cardiovascular disease.  Combine a Mediterranean diet with loss of excess body fat, and what’s not to love?

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:  Jemal, Ahmedin, et al.  Cancer Statistics, 2008.  CA Cancer Journal for Clinicians, 58 (2008): 71-96. 

One response to “Your Lifetime Risk of Cancer

  1. A 4 out of 10 probability. Wow.. that high?!! That number seems insane.
    Great, info though. Thanks, Steve!
    Jeff