Cancer Today: Are We Better or Worse Off?
In 2010, more than 18.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer around the world. In that same year, 8.29 million people died of cancer.
Where are we now?
According to more recent studies, we have may have a better idea of how prevalent and how deadly cancer is today.
Is Cancer More Common?
The most recent comprehensive study found that more than 26.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2019. More than 10 million people died of cancer in that same year. The question facing researchers is about accuracy; were 2010 numbers undercounting individuals or is cancer statistically more common today? Is the increase in total cancer cases higher because more of the world’s population has access to health care and cancer screenings?
Even the gradual population around the world might contribute to the growing number of cancer diagnoses; more people create a larger pool of potential diagnoses.
Different Types of Cancer, Different Trends
While the overall cancer mortality rate has been declining since 1991 by roughly 32%, that progress is largely attributable to success in specific types of cancer. For example, the prevalence of lung cancer has steadily declined in step with the shrinking number of smokers. Improvements in cancer treatments and early detection also increase survival rates.
Types of Cancer on the Rise
The CDC predicts that colorectal, prostate, and female breast cancer will increase. Additionally, cancer rates in seniors are anticipated to increase as larger portions of the population live longer. The likelihood of developing cancer increases with age.
Certain kidney cancers, too, have shown a steady increase in young people, increasing 29.6% between 1973 and 2015.
Obesity appears to be the cancer risk driving the increase of these types of cancer. Obesity continues to be a serious problem in higher-income societies, with a total of 650 million adults meeting the medical definitions of obesity in 2016.
There is often a 2–4 year lag in reliable cancer numbers because of the amount of time data collection can take. In the next few years, oncologists are watching factors like access to healthcare in developing countries and how the delays in cancer screening and treatment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic affect cancer rates and cancer mortality rates.
Today, proactively educating medical professionals, families, and individuals is likely the most effective way to tackle the increasing diagnoses of specific types of cancer. Just as important as care is access to care, which requires policymakers to include more of the population in having ready and affordable access to preventative care and cancer screening.
Learn more about our work to prevent cancer at lesscancer.org.