To Your Health

Cancer Update: Facts and Figures

The overall cancer death rate in the U.S. is declining, and the number of cancer survivors is increasing, according to the American Cancer Society’s 2016 cancer report. A major reason for the decline is early detection. Recent statistics:

  • Since 1998, death rates in the U.S. for the four most common cancers, prostate, lung, colorectal, and breast, and all cancers combined have been gradually declining. Death rates are also declining for brain, leukemia, ovary, stomach, and bladder cancers.
  • The number 1 cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. is lung cancer, in both men and women, primarily due to smoking.
  • Excess body fat is connected to 11 cancers, and considered the second leading risk factor for cancer after smoking.
  • Alcohol consumption likely causes several forms of cancer, including those of the larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast.

Cancer treatment is most successful when the disease is found early. Discuss cancer screening with your health care provider. Scientists hope their immunotherapy research will eventually lead to a universal cancer vaccine. Until then, a substantial number of cancers could be prevented by avoiding tobacco, by limiting alcohol use, and by maintaining a healthy weight.

by Elizabeth Smoots, MD


Cancer of the prostate is the most common cancer in U.S. men, and the third leading cause of cancer deaths. It occurs in the walnut–shaped prostate gland beneath the bladder in men. Older age ranks as the No. 1 risk factor; all men older than 50 are at increased risk for developing prostate cancer. A family history of prostate or breast cancer also elevates the risk.

Several other factors may contribute to prostate cancer. For unknown reasons, the cancer starts earlier and occurs more frequently in African–American men. Research also has linked a diet high in fat and low in vegetables to prostate cancer and excess weight to more aggressive disease.

Best ways to reduce risk: eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, lose excess weight and get moderate exercise most days of the week. Ask your health care provider about screening for prostate cancer.

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