- More than 890,000 new cases of cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in USwomen this year.
- The most common cancers among US women are breast, lung, colorectal, uterine, thyroid, melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, pancreas, kidney, and ovary.
This year, more than 1.7 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the US, according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 890,000 of those cases will occur in women.
While some cancer types, like lung cancer, are common for both sexes, others happen more frequently in women.
Below, INSIDER used data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to rank the 10 most common cancers in US women, 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.
(Note: The official data from CDC and NCI do not include cases of the skin cancers basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are not reported and tracked by cancer registries. The exact number of people who get these cancers every year isn’t known, but they are considered the most common type of cancer overall, with an
estimated 5.4 million cases diagnosed each year, according to the ACS.)
10. Ovarian cancer: 21,429 cases
Ovarian cancer is sometimes described as a “silent killer” that progresses with zero warning signs, but a doctor told INSIDER that’s not exactly accurate.
“That ‘silent killer’ terminology is really unfair because the vast majority of women with ovarian cancer have had symptoms,”Dr. Julian Schink chief of the division of gynecologic oncology at Cancer Treatment Centres of America, previously told INSIDER.
The problem is that the common signs of the disease – an increase in belly size, pain, urinary changes, and feeling full quickly – can seem nonspecific at first. (Other possible signs include fatigue, constipation, upset stomach, back pain, and pain during sex.)
According to the CDC and NCI’s data, there were 13,920 ovarian cancer deaths in 2015, making it the fifth deadliest cancer among women.
But Schink said the outlook for the disease is getting better.
“Survival continues to improve,” he told INSIDER. “Every year it gets better and we have new treatment options … It’s not a death sentence. It is becoming a more and more manageable cancer.”
9. Kidney and renal pelvis cancer: 22,792 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.
Even though it shows up on the list of most common cancers in women, men are twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with kidney cancer. It was the sixth most common cancer in men in 2015, according to the CDC and NCI data, but just the ninth most common in women.
But in all people, the symptoms of kidney cancer can include blood in urine, lower back pain on one side of the body, a lump in the lower back, and more.
8. Pancreatic cancer: 23,328 cases
The pancreas makes enzymes that help break down food and hormones that help regulate blood sugar. Because it’s located deep inside the abdomen,pancreatic tumours can grow for years before they cause pain or other worrisome signs, according to Columbia University Medical Center.
Symptoms of the disease can vary based on the type of pancreatic cell affected, but in exocrine pancreatic cancer – the most common type – signs can include yellowing of the eyes or skin, pain in the belly or back, weight loss, reduced appetite, nausea, and vomiting, according to the ACS.
7. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma: 30,437 cases
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer that starts in the immune system – specifically, in a class of white blood cells called lymphocytes, according to the ACS.
Common symptoms of NHL can include swollen lymph nodes, chills, fatigue, weight loss, a swollen belly, frequent infections, and more.
Read more: 10 signs of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
6. Melanoma: 33,337 cases
According to the ACS, the “most important” sign of melanoma is a new spot on your skin, or an old one that is 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 it’s caught early, melanoma is highly treatable, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Read more: 9 subtle signs you might have skin cancer
5. Thyroid cancer: 36,500 cases
Cancer of the thyroid – a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the neck – is “the most rapidly increasing cancer” in the US, according to the ACS. 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.”
About three out of every four cases of thyroid cancer occur in women, the ACS adds.
It causes symptoms like swelling, or pain, or a lump in the neck, hoarseness and voice changes, constant cough, and trouble breathing or swallowing.
4. Uterine corpus cancer: 54,644 cases
Uterine corpus cancer is often called endometrial cancer, since more than 90% of cases occur in the endometrium (the lining of the uterus), according to the ACS.
Abnormal vaginal bleeding occurs in about 90% of women diagnosed with endometrial cancer, but it’s good to remember that most irregular bleeding happens for “very benign reasons,” as gynecologist Dr. Mary Rosser previously told INSIDER. If you have three irregular cycles in a row, she said, consult with your doctor.
Other possible signs of endometrial cancer include unintentional weight loss, pelvic pain, and feeling a mass in your pelvis.
3. Colorectal cancers: 66,841 cases
Cancer of the colon and rectum (collectively: “colorectal cancer”) can cause symptoms like bowel changes (like diarrhoea or constipation) that last longer than a few days, blood in the stool, cramping, and abdominal pain.
A handful of different screening tests can catch the disease early, including colonoscopy, when a doctor examines the colon and rectum using a camera inserted through the rectum. Studies have found that 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.
2. Lung cancer: 104,992 cases
Lung cancer cases and deaths have both declined over time as US smoking rates have gone down, according to the ACS.
Still, more Americans die from lung cancer than any other kind of cancer, according to the CDC. It’s also the deadliest cancer for women specifically, the CDC and NCI data show. Smoking still causes the majority of these deaths, the ACS adds.
1. Breast cancer: 242,476 cases
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among US women, but there is encouraging news in the fight against the disease. Thanks in part to better treatment and early detection, the death rate for female breast cancer has declined by 40% since its peak in 1989, according to the latest figures from the ACS.
New lumps are the most common symptom of breast cancer, but other signs can include nipple discharge; dimpling, pulling in, or retraction of the breast skin or nipples; persistent rash; and sometimes, pain,breast surgeon Dr. Deanna Attai previously told INSIDER.
If you do find a lump, remember that most of them don’t indicate cancer.
“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.”
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