New CDC Cancer Study; Men and Blacks Have High Incidence; Survival Rates Good

Two out of three people diagnosed with cancer survive five years or more, according to a CDC study. Cancer is a leading cause of illness in the United States. Because of earlier detection of cancers with effective treatments, improved cancer treatments, and better general medical care, the percentage of persons living after a cancer diagnosis has increased over the past decades.


The report found that the most common cancer sites continue to be cancers of the prostate (128 cases per 100,000 men), female breast (122 cases per 100,000 women), lung and bronchus (61 cases per 100,000 persons), and colon and rectum (40 cases per 100,000 persons). Among these common cancer sites, the five-year relative survival was 97 percent for prostate cancer, 88 percent for breast cancer, 63 percent for colorectal cancer, and 18 percent for lung cancer.


The cancer survivor estimates are from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries. CDC scientists reviewed the most recent data on cases of invasive cancers reported during 2011. With the exception of urinary bladder cancer, invasive cancer is defined as cancer that has spread to surrounding normal tissue from where it began. In 2011, a total of 1,532,066 invasive cancers were reported to cancer registries in the United States (excluding Nevada), for an annual incidence rate of 451 cases per 100,000 persons.


The authors noted that disparities in cancer incidence still persist, with greater rates among men than women and the highest rates among blacks. Additionally, five-year relative survival after any cancer diagnosis was lower for blacks (60 percent) than for whites (65 percent).


Data by state show incidence rates for all cancer sites ranged from 374 cases per 100,000 persons in New Mexico to 509 cases per 100,000 persons in the District of Columbia. Surveillance of cancer incidence and survival are essential for identifying population groups with high cancer incidence rates and low cancer survival rates as well as for estimating the number of cancer survivors, which was 13.7 million in 2012. These data are being used by states to effectively develop comprehensive cancer control programs, including supporting the needs of cancer survivors.


For the first time, a subset of the USCS dataset includes the five-year relative survival rate, defined as the proportion of persons surviving five years or more after a cancer diagnosis compared with the proportion of survivors expected in a set of comparable cancer-free persons. These estimates are based on data from NPCR-funded states that met USCS publication criteria and conducted active case follow-up or linkage with the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics National Death Index. For this report, 30 states met these criteria, covering 71% of the U.S. population. The five-year relative survival rates were calculated for cases diagnosed during 2003–2010 with follow-up through 2010. Differences in survival after cancer diagnosis might be attributable to differences in type of cancer, stage at diagnosis, timeliness of follow-up after diagnosis, appropriate treatment after diagnosis, or having a chronic condition.


“These data are an important reminder that a key to surviving with cancer is making sure everyone has access to care from early diagnosis to treatment,” said Lisa Richardson, M.D., director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “We know, for example, that early detection of colorectal cancer has had the largest impact on long-term survival rates.”


Cancer incidence and survival data can guide the planning and evaluation of cancer prevention and control programs. In Vermont, for example, cancer registry data were used to identify two counties with high melanoma incidence rates in which to pilot a new program for skin cancer prevention. These data can also assist long-term planning for cancer diagnostic and treatment services. The Colorado Central Cancer Registry, in collaboration with the CDC, has built a free, user-friendly web-based module for clinicians that use cancer registry data to create treatment summaries and personalized cancer survivorship plans. Finally, these data can help public health officials set priorities for allocating health resources. For example, data from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry are linked into North Carolina's Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System, which overlays the cancer data with census data, health indicators, and socioeconomic variables to facilitate cancer-focused research, from prevention through diagnosis, treatment, survival, and end-of-life care.


Public health officials can use cancer incidence and survival data to identify population groups with high cancer incidence rates and low cancer survival rates who might benefit most from targeted cancer prevention and control efforts. Using these data to effectively develop comprehensive cancer control programs, including supporting the needs of cancer survivors, can help reduce cancer incidence and improve survival.


See the CDC Announcement


See the CDC Report


See also Medical Risk Law, October 2012 Report: Mistakes in Diagnosing Cancer: Liability Concerns for Misdiagnosis, Failure to Diagnose, and Delayed Diagnosis


See also Medical Risk Law, November 2014 Report: More Than Skin Deep: Skin Cancer Misdiagnosis and Other Liability Issues