Black Men, White Women Have Highest Cancer Incidence in US Interview with:
Dr. Simple Singh MD

Division of Cancer Prevention and Control

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Singh: This report provides official federal statistics on the occurrence of cancer for 2011 and trends for 1999–2011 as reported by CDC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Cancer incidence data are from population-based cancer registries that participate in CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program reported as of November 2013. Cancer mortality data are from death certificate information reported to state vital statistics offices in 2013 and compiled into a national file for the entire United States by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics’ (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). This report is a part of the first-ever Summary of Notifiable Noninfectious Conditions and Disease Outbreaks — United States, which encompasses various surveillance years but is being published in 2015.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Singh: In 2011, approximately 1.5 million invasive cancers were diagnosed in the United States, an annual incidence rate of 451 cases per 100,000 persons. In the same year, approximately 576,000 persons died of cancer nationally, an annual death rate of 169 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Cancer incidence and death rates increase with age.

Overall, 54% of cancer cases and 69% of cancer deaths in 2011 occurred among persons aged ≥65 years.

Among men in 2011, blacks had the highest cancer incidence and death rates in the United States, and American Indians/Alaska Natives and Asians/Pacific Islanders had the lowest cancer incidence and death rates.

Among women in 2011, whites had the highest cancer incidence rates and blacks had the highest cancer death rates. American Indians/ Alaska Natives had the lowest cancer incidence rates, and Asians/Pacific Islanders had the lowest cancer death rates.

By state, overall (all cancer sites combined) cancer incidence rates in 2011 ranged from 374 to 509 cases per 100,000 persons, and overall cancer death rates ranged from 126 to 201 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Four cancer sites accounted for half of all cases diagnosed in 2011, including 209,292 prostate cancers, 220,097 female breast cancers, 207,339 lung and bronchus cancers (110,322 among men and 97,017 among women), and 135,260 colon and rectum cancers (70,099 among men and 65,161 among women). These four sites also accounted for half of cancer deaths in 2011, including 156,953 lung cancer deaths, 51,783 colon and rectum cancer deaths, 40,931 female breast cancer deaths, and 27,970 prostate cancer deaths.

During 1999–2011, cancer incidence rates declined from 485 cancer cases per 100,000 population in 1999 to 444 cases in 2011. Although lung cancer incidence declined steadily among men from 1999 to 2011, it increased among women from 1999 to 2005 and has since declined from 2005 to 2011. Prostate cancer incidence declined from 170 cases per 100,000 men in 1999 to 128 cases in 2011. Colorectal cancer incidence declined from 57 cases per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 40 cases in 2011. Female breast cancer incidence declined from 135 cases per 100,000 women in 1999 to 121 cases in 2005, increased to 125 cases in 2009, and declined again to 122 cases in 2011. During 1999–2011, cancer death rates declined from 201 deaths per 100,000 persons in 1999 to 169 deaths in 2011; during the same period, death rates declined for each of the top four cancers.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Singh: The risk of some of the most common cancers could be reduced. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer among both men and women in the United States. Most lung cancers are caused by tobacco use. The most important thing you can do to lower your lung cancer risk is to quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.

Among men and women combined in the United States, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death and the third most common cancer. Colorectal cancer screening can reduce both incidence and death from colorectal cancer.  Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective and lead to a cure.

Among women in the United States, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death. Getting mammograms regularly can lower the risk of dying from breast cancer. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that if you are 50 to 74 years old, be sure to have a screening mammogram every two years. If you are 40 to 49 years old, talk to your doctor about when to start and how often to get a screening mammogram.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men. Most prostate cancers grow slowly, and don’t cause any health problems in men who have them. A prostate specific antigen (PSA) test may find a prostate health problem, but treatment can cause serious side effects. Learn about prostate cancer and talk to your doctor before you decide to get tested or treated for prostate cancer.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Singh: National cancer surveillance data help public health officials track progress toward achieving the national cancer objectives set forth in Healthy People 2020. For the national cancer burden to be reduced and Healthy People 2020 targets to be met, behavioral and environmental factors that increase cancer risk must be reduced, and high-quality screening services and evidence-based treatments must be available and accessible to all persons. Several effective primary and secondary prevention measures, such as vaccination against infectious agents that cause cancer (i.e., human papilloma virus and hepatitis B virus), help with smoking cessation, and cancer screening, when effectively implemented and sustained, could reduce the number of new cancer cases and prevent many cancer-related deaths. Evidence-based interventions can be implemented at both the individual level and the population level to reduce cancer risk factors, promote healthy living, and encourage cancer screening.


Surveillance for Cancer Incidence and Mortality — United States, 2011

MMWR Weekly

October 23, 2015 / 62(54);11-51

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Dr. Simple Singh MD (2015). Black Men, White Women Have Highest Cancer Incidence in US