In 2018, there will be about 1.7 million new cases of cancer diagnosed in the US, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society (ACS.)
Below, INSIDER used data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to rank the most common cancers in the US, from least to most common. Specifically, the data shows which cancers had the highest number of new cases in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.
Thyroid cancer: 48,761 cases
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that a plays a role in heart rate, metabolism, skin maintenance, growth, body temperature, digestion, and fertility, and more.
The ACS website describes thyroid cancer as “the most rapidly increasing cancer” in the US. This is partly because we’re just catching it more often.
“Often the [cancerous] thyroid nodules are found when people are getting imaging for other disorders,” endocrinologist Dr. Elizabeth Pearce previously told INSIDER. “Just the fact that we’re doing so much more imaging today than we were doing a couple of decades ago probably is the largest driver of why the cancer prevalence has increased.”
But thyroid cancer has a low mortality rate, meaning it’s not very deadly.
It causes symptoms like swelling, or pain, or a lump in the neck, hoarseness and voice changes, constant cough, and trouble breathing or swallowing.
Uterine corpus cancer: 54,644 cases
Uterine corpus cancer is often called endometrial cancer because 92% of cases occur in the endometrium, or uterine lining, according to the ACS.
The most common symptom is abnormal vaginal bleeding – but women shouldn’t panic if they have one menstrual cycle that seems abnormal.
Gynecologist Dr. Mary Rosser previously explained to INSIDER that most irregular bleeding happens for “very benign reasons.” If you have three irregular cycles in a row, she said, then it’s time to call your doctor.
Kidney and renal pelvis cancer: 61,816 cases
This category covers cancers in the body of the kidney as well as the renal pelvis – an area at the center of the kidney where urine collects.
Men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with kidney cancer, according to the ACS. Men’s increased exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in the workplace and increased likelihood of smoking may partly explain this gap.
For all people, though, the symptoms may include blood in the urine, low back pain on one side of the body that’s not linked to an injury, a lump in the lower back, fatigue, appetite loss, unexplained weight loss, and more.
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: 67,522 cases
Lymphoma is cancer that affects lymphocytes, a class of white blood cell that’s part of the immune system.
There are two main types: Hodgkin Lymphoma, named after the scientist who first discovered it, and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). The difference between them has to do with the specific type of lymphocytes they affect, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Thought NHL occurs primarily in adults, it’s also one of the most common cancers affecting children and teens, according to the ACS.
Common symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, chills, fatigue, weight loss, a swollen belly, frequent infections, and more.
Bladder cancer: 73,067 cases
Bladder cancer is another cancer type that disproportionately affects men: It occurs about four times more often in men than in women, according to the ACS. Researchers are still investigating exactly why, but they do know that smoking is considered the biggest risk factor for the disease.
Blood in the urine is typically the first sign of bladder cancer, but it may also lead to changes in urinary habits. More advanced cases can cause an inability to urinate, lower back pain, weight loss, loss of appetite, and more.
Melanoma: 80,442 cases
Invasive melanoma makes up only about 1% of all skin cancer cases, but it causes the vast majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the ACS.
The ACS says the “most important” sign of melanoma is skin spot that’s either new or changing in in size, shape or colour.
“Melanoma can either show up as a new spot or it can arise within an existing mole,” dermatologist Dr. Allison Arthur previously told INSIDER. “[Look for] a mole that has changed in size, shape, or colour. It may be suspicious if a mole has multiple colours or unusual colours like red, white, blue, or black.”
If you do notice a suspicious spot, get it checked out. When skin cancers are detected early, they’re usually treatable.
“I would much rather have someone come in, even if it’s a benign spot, rather than to have them wait for six months and have something potentially grow,” Arthur said.
9 subtle signs you might have skin cancer
Colorectal cancers: 140,788 cases
Cancer of the colon and rectum are often referred to collectively as “colorectal cancer.” According to the ACA, symptoms can include bowel changes (like diarrhoea or constipation) that last longer than a few days, blood in the stool, cramping, abdominal pain, and more.
This cancer is of particular note for younger people: Between 1991 to 2014, rectal cancer rates doubled in people between the ages of 20 and 49, according to research from the NCI.
The actual number of cases among young people is still low, but the increasing rate is concerning, and experts still aren’t sure exactly why it’s happening, Business Insider reported in May.
Luckily, there are a number of screening tests that can catch cancerous of precancerous colon and rectal growths early.
One you’ve probably heard of before is colonoscopy. (That’s when a doctor examines the colon and rectum using a tiny camera inserted through the rectum.) Research shows regular colonoscopies reduce colorectal cancer deaths by 60 to 70%, according to the NCI. The ACS has a detailed guide to all different screening options and recommendations.
Prostate cancer: 183,529 cases
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in US men, according to the CDC and NCI data. The risk of prostate cancer is 74% higher for black men than white men, but the reasons why are still not clear, according to the ACS.
Though early prostate cancer often has no symptoms, in later stages the disease can cause a slow or weak urine stream, blood or semen in urine, erectile dysfunction, and more
11 subtle signs you might have cancer
Lung cancer: 218,527 cases
More Americans die from lung cancer than any other kind of cancer, according to the CDC.
Smoking is the biggest risk factor of the disease, as the ACS notes a whopping 80% of lung cancer deaths are still caused by smoking.
The good news is that both cases of lung cancer and deaths from lung cancer have declined over the years because smoking rates have declined, too. But it’s good to remember that smoking doesn’t only cause cancer in the lungs – it can cause cancer almost anywhere in the body, according to the CDC.
Early-stage lung cancers typically don’t cause symptoms, but people may experience a persistent or worsening cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, hoarseness, and more.
Female breast cancer: 242,476 cases
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, according to the CDC. (Men can still get breast cancer, but it’s far less common: There will be an estimated 2,550 cases of male breast cancer in 2018, the ACS reports).
The good news? The death rate for female breast cancer has declined by 39% since its peak in 1989, a reduction that experts link to better treatment and early detection, according to the ACS.
New lumps are the most common symptom of breast cancer, but they’re not the only one. You should also watch for nipple discharge; any dimpling, pulling in, or retraction of the breast skin or nipples; a persistent rash; and sometimes, pain, breast surgeon Dr. Deanna Attai previously told INSIDER.
And if you do find a lump, it’s important not to immediately assume the worst.
“Number one, breathe,” Attai said. “Number two, set up an appointment with your doctor. The majority of breast lumps are benign, especially in younger women, but it’s always reasonable to have it checked.”
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinomas: Millions, according to estimates
The official data from CDC and NCI do not include cases of the skin cancers basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
While other cancers are reported and tracked by cancer registries, basal and squamous cell carcinomas are not, according to the ACS. That means the exact number of people who get these cancers every year isn’t known.
The signs of these cancers can vary – here’s a guide that explains the symptoms.
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