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Cancer Prevalence: How Many People Have Cancer?

What is cancer prevalence?

Cancer prevalence is defined as the number of living people who have ever been diagnosed with cancer. It includes people diagnosed with cancer in the past as well those who were recently diagnosed.

Cancer prevalence is determined by how often a cancer occurs (incidence) and by how long people normally live after diagnosis (survival). This means prevalence counts are highest for the most common cancers with the longest survival. And, a common cancer with shorter survival may have a lower prevalence count than a less common cancer with longer survival.

For example, although lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in both men and women, the prevalence count for lung cancer is lower than that for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a less common cancer. This is because people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma survive longer than those with lung cancer, so there are more people living after a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma than after a diagnosis of lung cancer.

The numbers

The numbers on this chart are prevalence counts from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures 2014-2015, a collaboration with the National Cancer Institute. These estimates do not include carcinoma in situ (non-invasive cancer) of any site except urinary bladder, nor do they include basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers.

Estimated numbers of survivors for the 10 most prevalent cancer sites among males and females in the United States as of January 1, 2014

Males

Females

Prostate

2,975,970 (43%)

Breast

3,131,440 (41%)

Colon & rectum

621,430 (9%)

Uterine corpus

624,890 (8%)

Melanoma

516,570 (8%)

Colon & rectum

624,340 (8%)

Urinary bladder

455,520 (7%)

Melanoma

528,860 (7%)

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

297,820 (4%)

Thyroid

470,020 (6%)

Testis

244,110 (4%)

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

272,000 (4%)

Kidney

229,790 (3%)

Cervix

244,180 (3%)

Lung and bronchus

196,580 (3%)

Lung and bronchus

233,510 (3%)

Oral cavity and pharynx

194,140 (3%)

Ovary

199,900 (3%)

Leukemia

177,940 (3%)

Kidney

159,280 (2%)

All cancer sites

6,876,600

All cancer sites

7,607,230

A few facts about these survivors

  • The majority of cancer survivors (64%) were diagnosed 5 or more years ago.
  • 15% of cancer survivors diagnosed 20 or more years ago.
  • Nearly half (46%) of cancer survivors are 70 years of age or older.

The National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center

The National Cancer Survivorship Resource Center (The Survivorship Center) is a collaboration between the American Cancer Society and the George Washington Cancer Institute, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its goal is to shape the future of post-treatment cancer survivorship care and to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors. To find out more about The Survivorship Center’s activities, visit www.cancer.org/survivorshipcenter.

Last Medical Review: 05/20/2014
Last Revised: 05/20/2014