Cancer is one of the most deadly diseases in the United States. The disease affects both men and women at almost equal rates. Although the treatment for cancer is extremely advanced and sophisticated, whether or not an individual survives cancer depends on various factors including how early the illness is detected. In addition, the survival rates of cancer are highly relevant to the region of the body or bodily system cancer that the cancer strikes. Individual health habits and family history also bear a relation to the incidences of cancer. This essay discusses the prevalence of cancer in the United States, its causes, its prevention, and details incidences of cancer including a personal account of cancer of how cancer affected my family.
Prevalence of Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS) there were 1,529,560 incidences of cancer in 2010. This number includes cancer in all bodily sites and for both men and women. Of this number 789,620 of the patients were males and 739,940 of the patients were female (American Cancer Society). This number indicates that the prevalence of cancer is divided equally between males and females. The number also includes the incidences of cancer that occurred in all sites of the body.
The ACS reported that of those 1,529,560 incidences of cancer a total of 569,490 of those resulted in the death of the patient. This represents approximately 35% of the total cases. Of the 569,490 fatalities, 299,200 of the deaths were men and 270,290 of the deaths were women (American Cancer Society). Again, the numbers were somewhat equally divided, although slightly higher for the males.
According to the ACS, cancer was reported in each of the following bodily systems: oral cavity and pharynx, digestive system, respiratory system, bones and joints, soft tissue including the heart, skin, breast, genital system, urinary system, eyes and orbit, brain, endocrine, and types of cancer called lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia (Id.). In each of the body systems and types of cancer reported, with the exception of the reproductive organs, the occurrence of cancer was reported in both genders (Id.). Of the types of cancer reported, the only type of cancer that did not result in a death in 2010 was cancer of the rectum (Id.).
In analyzing the prevalence of cancer in the different bodily systems, the most frequent incidences of cancer occurred overall in the genital system, this does not include breast cancer (Id). The total numbers of incidences reported in the genital system were 311,270 (Id.). Of this number, the highest incidences of total cases reported were prostate cases at 217,730 (Id.) . Of these cases, 32,050 resulted in death (Id.). Since prostate cancer only affects men, it is necessary to discuss the most frequent site of cancer reported for women. In 2010, the most frequent site reported by women was breast cancer with 207,090 incidences (Id.). Of these incidences, 39,840 resulted in the death of the patient (Id.).
Note that the most frequent sites for cancer occurrence are distinguishable from the cancer site that caused the most deaths in both men and women. In this case, the most frequent site that resulted in overall deaths for both men and women was the respiratory system where 161,670 deaths occurred in 2010 (Id.). The parts of the respiratory system that cancer was reported in are the larynx, lungs/bronchus, and other respiratory organs (Id.). Of these parts, the total 2010 deaths related to lung cancer were157,300 (Id.). Of these deaths, 86,220 were men and 71,080 were women (Id.).
The ACS also reported the prevalence of cancer in the various demographic regions in the country. The state that reported the most cancer cases was California which reported 157,320 total cases. The state of Florida was second with 107,000 incidences, and New York was third with 103,340 incidences reported (Id.). The most frequent site in the body reported by a state was the prostate cancer cases -- California reported 22,640 prostate cancer cases in 2010 (Id.). The next frequent site was breast cancer cases in California where 21,130 cases were reported (Id.).
On the other hand the state with the least incidences of cancer in 2010 was the state of Wyoming which reported 2,540 cases (Id.). Regarding the lowest incidences of cancer as it pertains to the bodily sites, several states reported less than 50 cases of uterine / cervical cancer-- Alaska, Delaware, Washington D.C., Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming (Id.). Of each of the bodily sites where cancer was reported in 2010, uterine/cervical cancer was the only bodily site where less than 50 incidences were reported.
3. Causes of Cancer
In light of the frequent number of cases of cancer, the causes remain extremely important. According to Colditz and Hunter there are approximately 13 primary causes of cancer that frequently result in fatalities. The most frequent cause of cancer is tobacco and about 30% of the reported cases in the year of 2000 were related to tobacco (162). The next frequent cause of caner as researched by Colditz and Hunter was adult diet/obesity which was the reported cause of 25% of the cases (Id.). The following chart demonstrates the causes and the related percentages of cancer cases.
Causes of Cancer and Percentage of Related Cases (Id.).
Cause of Cancer
Percentage of Deaths Caused
Family history of cancer
Viruses and other biological agents
Prescription drugs/medical procedures
Salt/other food additives/contaminants
With the causes of cancer being expansive, it is important to note that while certain causes such as salt/other food additives/contaminants represent only 1% of the cases, when this percentage is applied to the total number of cases the number of cases related to this cause becomes significant. For example, using the current reported number of total cases in 2010 of 1,529,560, one percent of this number is approximately 15,296 cases that would be related to salt/other food additives/contaminants. So, keep in mind that because the total number of cancer cases is expansive, when a cause is related to 1% of this number, this would still result in a number of cancer cases that it well into the thousands.
In light of the fact that approximately 55% of the cancer cases are related to tobacco and obesity combined, prevention strategies for cancer relate to abandoning cigarette smoking and improving one's diet. Key et. al conducted research on how the human diet relates to the risk and prevalence of cancer. "In developing countries, around 60% of the cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, and esophagus, are thought to be due to micronutrient deficiencies low in fruits, vegetables, and animal products (Key et al., 189). While the protective effects of fruits and vegetables are still being researched, the research uncovered that the lack of riboflavin, folate, vitamin C, and zinc may all be important (Id.). It follows that, the lack of vitamins and minerals within the diet is related to the prevalence of cancer. Further research from the group revealed that the risk of stomach cancer increases with the increased intake of highly salted foods such as meat and pickles, but that high intake of fruits and vegetables reduced the risk perhaps due to their vitamin C content (Id. At 190). While the group's research in this study did not reveal many finite conclusions as it related to dietary-risk factors and cancer, they did reach one conclusion-- that the "best established dietary-related risk factor for cancer is overweight/obesity" (Id. At 190).
5. Specific Cases of Cancer
Recently, a number of high profile individuals have battled cancer. On December 7, 2010, Elizabeth Edwards succumbed to…