Which are the Most Common Types of Cancer?

In 2019, the American Cancer Society estimates that there will be nearly 1.8 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. alone. With 606,880 cancer deaths predicted to occur this year as well, the disease is among the most common causes of death in the country. In this article, we break down which forms of cancer are projected to contribute most to these new cases in 2019, as per the American Cancer Society Facts & Figures annual report for 2019.

Skin

Although skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, the actual number of skin cancers is difficult to quantify. The most common types of skin cancer, basal and squamous cell, are not required to be reported to cancer registries, therefore this number is challenging to estimate. The most recent review of these nonmelanomas estimated that 5.4 million cases were diagnosed in 3.3 million patients in 2012. Although invasive melanoma only accounts for roughly 1% of all skin cancers, a majority of skin cancer deaths stem from this condition.

Excluding basal and squamous cell cancers, the ACS estimates that there will be 104,350 new cases of skin cancer in 2019 (62,320 males, 42,030 females). A staggering 96,480 of these cases are forecasted to be diagnosed as melanoma, and 11,650 total skin cancer deaths are predicted for the year (excluding nonmelanomas).

Digestive System

Cancers of the digestive system are predicted to sit atop this list, with an estimated 328,030 diagnoses in 2019. Colon cancer accounts for most of these cases (101,420), with pancreatic cancer ranking second amongst the predicted digestive system cancers (56,770). The male population is predicted to account for 186,080 of these total cases, with 141,950 cases predicted in females. In total, the ACS estimates 165,460 will die from cancer in the digestive system in 2019.

Rates of colorectal cancer have been declining for decades due to increased screening and changes in public health knowledge. Older adults account for the lion’s share of this trend, however, and are masking the increase in colorectal cancer in younger patients. From 2006 to 2015, the incidence of colorectal cancer decreased by 3.7% annually in adults aged 55 or older but increased by 1.8% in patients younger than 55.

Genital system

Genital system cancer accounts for 295,290 of these predicted cases in 2019. With 174,650 of these cases estimated to occur in the prostate, the male population accounts for a majority of these genital system cancers (186,290 and 109,000 total cases predicted in men and women, respectively). Among female patients, cancer in the uterine corpus is estimated to be the most common, with 61,880 cases predicted. Genital system cancer is expected to cause 65,540 deaths by the end of 2019.

Breast

The breast cancer projections are overwhelmingly accounted for by women, with 268,600 cases predicted in female patients and only 2,670 in men. Of the 42,260 deaths projected by the ACS, only 500 will occur in male patients. Despite heavy research and drug development, the rate of invasive female breast cancer has slightly increased by 0.4% each year from 2006 to 2015. Fortunately, the female breast cancer death rate has declined by 40% from 1989 to 2016, dropping from 33.2 per 100,000 to 20. This translates to approximately 348,800 fewer breast cancer deaths each year. This positive trend is in part due to increased screening, earlier detection, and more thorough treatment.

Respiratory system

The ACS forecasts 246,440 new cases of respiratory system cancer in 2019 (130,370 males, 116,070 females), with 228,150 of these cases being from lung and bronchus cancer. Respiratory cancers are particularly aggressive, with a total of 147,510 deaths from the disease expected by the end of the year.

The incidence of lung and bronchus cancer has declined since the 1980s in men, but the trend was slower to manifest in women. Due to gender differences in historical cigarette use and cessation, incidence rates in females did not begin dropping until the mid-2000s. Lung and bronchus cancer rates have decreased sharply as of recent, dropping by almost 3% in men and 1.5% in women each year from 2011 to 2015.