Cancer in the US

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), the U.S. holds the seventh highest global cancer rate in comparison to all other countries. It is estimated that roughly 3 out of every 1,000 Americans will develop cancer per year. While U.S. cancer death rates are steadily declining, the National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly 1,660,290 new cases of cancer will develop in 2013. Of these, 580,350 are estimated deaths. Experts rally for improvements in the daily lifestyles of Americans to help ward off the development of cancer.

U.S. Cancer Trends by Demographic

The American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that:

  • Cancer rates in the least educated portion of the population are roughly 2.5 times higher than in the most educated portion
  • Specifically, lung cancer rates are roughly five times higher in the least educated population than in the most educated population
  • Lung cancer rates account for 28 percent of male cancer deaths and 26 percent of female cancer deaths
  • Lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers are the most common cause of cancer death in men
  • Lung, breast, and colorectal cancers are the most common cause of cancer death in women
  • White women have the highest cancer incident rates, while black women have the highest cancer death rates
  • American Indian/Alaska Native women have the lowest cancer incident rates and third-highest cancer death rates
  • In 2010, black men had both the highest cancer incident and cancer death rates
  • American Indian/Alaska Native men have the lowest cancer incident rates, while Asian/Pacific Islander men have the lowest cancer death rates

U.S. Lifestyle and Cancer Rates

Experts believe that lifestyle trends in the U.S. are a significant contributor to its high cancer rates. On average, Americans have a greater tendency to be overweight, consume more alcohol, and participate in less routine physical activity than citizens of other countries. While specific causes of cancer remain unknown, it is believed that these factors are significant contributors to cancer development. Scientists suggest that a healthy weight, increased physical activity, and healthy diet can help prevent roughly one-third of common cancers.

Experts suggest the following lifestyle changes to help prevent the development of cancer:

  • Eating more vegetables, legumes, fish, and whole grains
  • Eating more quality fats that are rich in vitamins and minerals
  • Eating less red meat and dairy products
  • Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke
  • Avoiding excessive sun exposure and sunburn

Developments in Oncology

In recent years, the U.S. has seen tremendous growth and development in oncology, or the study of cancer. The Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that within the last decade, oncology drugs have seen an increased market success rate. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted disproportionately high amounts of priority review ratings to developing oncology drugs. Priority reviews are a means to expedite the FDA approval of certain drugs so that they can be released to the public. On average, clinical development times for these drugs averaged 1.5 years, and the regulatory approval process averaged half a year.

Controversy of Expedited Approval

While expedited FDA can provide cancer patients with life-saving drugs at a faster pace, a great deal of controversy exists. Expedited approvals may also lead to a lack of attention to or observation of certain side effects or inefficiencies in these drugs. In many cases, complications from pharmaceutical drugs may take years to develop within patients. When pharmaceutical drugs receive expedited approval, adverse effects may not be observed until years after the drugs have been released and provided to U.S. cancer patients.

Cancer and Pharmaceutical Companies

The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is surrounded by controversy over cancer. While these pharmaceutical companies are powerhouses for developing drugs and procedures for treating cancer symptoms, there is a significant lack of emphasis on efforts to cure and prevent cancer. Many believe that this is due to the immense profitability of developing and selling cancer treatments. It is estimated that in 2012, 11 major pharmaceutical companies earned a combined $85 billion in pharmaceutical drug sales. Leukemia drug Glivec, manufactured by pharmaceutical giant Novartis, earned the company $4.7 billion in revenue in 2012 alone.




Basch, Ethan. “Toward Patient-Centered Drug Development in Oncology.” New England Journal of Medicine. 369. (2013): 397-400. Print.

“Cancer Prevention and Control: Racial or Ethnic Variations.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24 Oct 2013. Web. 22 Nov 2013. <>.

DiMasi, Jonathan, et al. “Economics of new oncology drug development.” Journal of Clinical Oncology. 25.2 (2007): 209-216. Print.