How We can Protect Ourselves and Who Are The 4 Most Common Types of Cancer in America
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. Cancers contrast with benign tumors, which do not spread to other parts of the body. Possible signs and symptoms include a lump, abnormal bleeding, prolonged cough, unexplained weight loss, and a change in bowel movements. While these symptoms may indicate cancer, they may have been caused by other health conditions. Over 100 types of cancer affect humans.
The US Estimations for Cancer in 2018
The American Cancer Society journal has already published its Cancer Facts & Figures 2018. This annual report provides:
- Estimated numbers of new cancer cases and deaths in 2018 – This year, in the United States there will be an estimated 1,735,350 new cancer cases diagnosed and 609,640 cancer deaths.
- Current cancer incidence, mortality, and survival statistics;
- Information on cancer symptoms, risk factors, early detection, and treatment.
Most Common Types of Cancer in America
Although cancer takes many forms, there are four types that claim the lives of several hundreds of thousands of Americans every year: breast, prostate, lung, and colon/rectum. Below you will find some main facts from surveys on these four cancers. All demographic data and statistics come from the American Cancer Society’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.
Lung cancer starts as a small tumor in one of the lungs. If left untreated, lung cancer metastasizes, spreading to other parts of the body. Thus, the chance of survival falls below 5%. In fact, lung cancer kills more Americans, both men, and women, than the other three most common types of cancer combined.
Risk factors: Smoking (it causes 80% to 90% of all new cases) and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Screening/detection: The U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends yearly lung screening in adults who smoke currently and are in the ages 55-80. If diagnosed early, the survival rate increases dramatically.
Treatment: Surgical removal is possible for early-stage lung cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used at any stage and often accompany surgery.
Research: Researchers are working on identification of the cellular properties that make some lung cancer cells resistant to treatment. So far, they have uncovered a protein that is critical to chemo-resistance, called DAPK3. If the presence of this protein is regulated within the tumor cell, then the chances of recovery increase.
Usually originating in the milk ducts or milk glands, breast cancer affects hundreds of thousands of American women. It kills about 40,000 each year. If it is detected early, the survival rate increases a lot. Over 98% of women survive five years if treatment starts as soon as the cancer is localized.
Risk factors: Genetics and family history play a leading role. Use of oral birth control and alcohol have also been shown to have a minor impact on the development of breast cancer.
Screening/detection: The American Cancer Society recommends that women 40 years and older have yearly mammogram screenings.
Treatment: Surgical removal is the most common treatment for breast cancer. It is often accompanied by chemotherapy or radiation.
Research: Researchers have isolated a number of genes that predispose a patient to breast cancer, including BRCA1 and BRCA2. Knowledge of these genes would help doctors to identify risk patients early in life and perform regular screenings.
While breast cancer nearly always affects women, prostate cancer exclusively affects the male part of the population, especially the older men. About 1 in 6 men receives a prostate cancer diagnosis during his lifetime. Fortunately, the majority of men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it.
Risk factors: Age is the biggest risk factor. 65% of all diagnoses of prostate cancer are in men older than 65. Family history, height, weight, and diet also play an important role. Also, the place of living may also impact the likelihood of prostate cancer. Men who receive less sunlight throughout their lives are exposed to a higher risk.
Screening/detection: The American Cancer Society recommends that all men 50 years or older get regular screenings. The survival rate is very high if prostate cancer is detected as soon as localized.
Treatment: Surgery is often used to remove prostate cancer at an early stage, while chemotherapy is used in later stages. Radiation therapy can be used at any stage.
Research: Prostate cancer research funded by the American Cancer Society include two primary approaches, aimed at reducing the vulnerability of a healthy cell to cancerous cells and increasing the ability of a cell to respond to treatment.
Colorectal cancer represents two kinds of cancer that affect either the colon or the rectum. However, since the two kinds have many common characteristics, they are often classified together. Usually starting as small malignant polyps, or growths, along with the lining of the colon or rectum, colon cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Risk factors: Age is the leading risk factor. Over 80% of all new cases occur in people 45 to 84 years old. Family history and diet have also been shown to increase risk levels.
Screening/detection: The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that screenings start at 50 years old for people of normal risk, usually through yearly fecal exams and a colonoscopy every five to ten years.
Treatment: Surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer, with radiation or chemotherapy often used.
Research: The American Cancer Society is funding several research initiatives aimed at improving the methods for early detection, treatment, and prevention of colon cancer. Work includes the investigation of the role of estrogen in the suppression of colon tumor formation.
Given the great obstacles we face in treating cancer, prevention is the best approach. The World Health Organization states that at least one-third of cancers are preventable. In fact, a recent study claims that two-thirds of cancer cases are due to weight gain, lack of exercise, and smoking.
Currently, over two-thirds of American adults are overweight and at least a third are obese, according to the National Institute of Health. The National Cancer Institute recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and keeping the Body Mass Index (BMI) below 25.
The National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society conclude that losing weight would decrease the threat of cancer, but they warn it is better to stay slim throughout your life.
Rates of smoking have declined dramatically over past decades, but they still remain too high. Even just regular exposure to second-hand smoke increases cancer risk by 20 to 30%.
Current smokers who quit have the power to drastically reduce their cancer risks. According to a research, quitting smoking by age 30 reduces overall chance of smoking-related death by 90%, and the rate is 50% for those who quit at around 50 years old.
Besides maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking, doctors recommend people take further measures to reduce their cancer risks. They are especially important for the higher-risk category — current or former smokers, overweight and obese people, and those with family members who have been diagnosed with cancer:
- Get cancer screenings beginning at age 20.
- Avoid excessive UV exposure.
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.