The 10 Most Common Types of Cancer in the United States
Second only to heart disease, cancer is the biggest killer of Americans. But many factors contribute to the likelihood of being diagnosed with specific types of the disease, including gender, race/ethnicity, family history, lifestyle habits, and others. Here are the most common kinds of cancers, for men and women, across all races.
Diagnosing ovarian cancer is particularly difficult because early signs are often vague and can be confused with other health issues. To make matters worse, what causes ovarian cancer is still largely unknown. Women over 55 have the highest risk of developing and dying from the disease, and taking estrogen replacement therapy for an extended period of time may increase one’s risk. Women who have their first child earlier, and who have more children, have a lower chance of getting the disease.
Stomach pain and swelling are possible symptoms of ovarian cancer. Removal of the cancerous cells may be possible with a full or partial oophorectomy if the cancer has not spread to other organs.
The exact cause of uterine cancer is not known, but being obese; older (over 50); taking estrogen (without progesterone); difficulty getting pregnant; and a family history of uterine, colon, or ovarian cancer all increase a woman’s risk. Most cases of uterine cancer occur in post-menopausal women between the ages of 60 and 70.
Kidney and renal pelvis cancer occurs in tubules in the kidney where urine is transported and filtered. People with a horseshoe kidney or polycystic kidney disease have a greater risk of kidney and renal pelvis cancer, and if you’re on dialysis, you’re more likely to develop kidney cancer. Surgery to remove the kidney or the tumor can be effective if the cancer has not spread.
Non-Hodgkin lymphomas (NHL) are a group of blood cancers that affect white blood cells. NHL disrupts the normal functioning of your lymph system, which helps protect your body against infections and the growth of tumors.
The cause of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is still unknown, but patients who have HIV or the Epstein-Barr virus are thought to have an increased risk. Symptoms can include fever, sweating, fatigue, and weight loss, according to the National Cancer Institute.
The cause of urinary bladder cancer is unknown, but smoking, chemicals, and a history of bladder cancer raise a person’s risk. In addition to feeling the frequent need to urinate, signs of bladder cancer include blood in your urine.
Bladder cancer is one of the most expensive cancers to treat on a per-patient basis. Pin Down Bladder Cancer aims to improve early detection of the disease; the organization hopes to spread awareness of bladder cancer with “Pin Down Bladder Cancer” pins.
Melanomas are the deadliest type of skin cancer. They can look like a normal pimple or a mole and can go unnoticed, which is why regular skin checks are important, especially for those with risk factors for melanoma. These include fair skin, sun damage (as from tanning), and a family history of the cancer.
Melanomas are caused by changes in melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin, which gives us skin and hair color. You can reduce your risk by making sure you wear the right kind of sunscreen when you’re in the sun to avoid overexposure to UV rays.
The Melanoma Research Foundation runs the “Miles for Melanoma” program, where you can participate in organized races or hold your own fundraising athletic activity to raise money for melanoma research to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Though non-smokers can contract lung cancer, cigarette smoking is the number-one cause of the disease, although prolonged exposure to second-hand smoke (or breathing anything akin to Beijing’s heavily polluted air) is just as bad as smoking cigarettes.
There are two main types of lung cancers: small cell and non-small cell. Small-cell cancer cells usually grow and spread faster. Compared to other types of cancer, cure rates for lung cancer are very low.
You’re at an increased chance of developing colon and rectal cancer if you’re over 60, eat a diet heavy on red and/or processed meats, and/or have other bowel diseases.
Colon cancer starts in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum, says the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Symptoms include abdominal pain or tenderness, blood in the stool, and diarrhea. The best test to detect colorectal cancer is a colonoscopy. There is a very good chance colorectal cancers can be cured if they are spotted early enough. Preventive measures include switching to a low-fat, high-fiber diet and getting a colonoscopy if you are 50 or older.
The Colon Cancer Alliance is committed to improving colon cancer awareness, education, and providing more life-saving screenings. Their biggest event is the traveling Undy 5000, a 5K run/race in which participants are encouraged to run in their boxers. As of January 2013, the race had raised almost $87,000 in support of the Alliance.
One in eight women will eventually be diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the most common kind of cancer among women. There are two main types of breast cancer: ductal and lobular. Ductal cancer develops in milk ducts in the breasts and lobular cancer starts in the breasts’ milk-producing lobules.
As with most diseases, women have an increased chance of developing breast cancer the older they get. Having a family history of breast cancer also increases your risk, while giving birth to your first child earlier reduces your chances. (Check out the National Cancer Institute’s online tool for calculating breast cancer risk.) The NCI recommends that women age 40 or older get a mammogram (a test to screen for breast cancer) every one or two years.
Pictured above are walkers at a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event. Komen holds events throughout the year, across the country, to raise money for breast cancer research, advocacy, and awareness.
Cancer of the prostate—the small, walnut-sized structure that makes up part of a man's reproductive system—is the most common cause of death from cancer for men over 75. Eighty percent of men over 80 have some prostate cancer cells, but with earlier diagnosis and improved treatment, the five-year survival rate for men who’ve had prostate cancer approaches 100 percent.
African-American and white men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and should be tested as early as 40 and 50 years old. Diet is thought to be a contributing factor to prostate cancer (men who eat a high-fat diet are at higher risk), as is drinking too much alcohol and working or living around certain chemicals.