I am mathematical in nature. It was that propensity that led me to search for cancer statistics for my rare cancer when I was newly diagnosed. Finding cancer statistics is not an easy situation because most countries do not have widespread mandatory cancer reporting requirements. In 1999, I was able to find statistics for my cancer for 30 states in the U.S.. In some of those states, only individual institutions reported cancerous tumors. And in some of those states, reporting was done on a total 3 - 5 year basis, so I had to 'year-average' their data. There were 33 cases of my particular variant of my rare cancer in that year across the U.S. in the 30 states that reported partial statistics.
Armed with those statistics, I was sent to the cancer guru in my area on this cancer. He told me that there had only been 31 cases of my cancer diagnosed in the U.S. since the inception of reporting. I have also been sent statements, such as "everyone knows that the outcome of x treatment over y treatment has a 50% better outcome for your cancer. I did not let that sway me, because my college education in statistics taught me that I can prove any axiom by the method in which I gather the statistics. This knowledge has always made me question statistical proof that is sent to me. My first comment to the sender is always "please show me the medical data that back up this claim and where you acquired it. In all this time, I have never received a reply to that request.
To get true statistical data, you need large numbers and a good sampling technique. With rare cancers this is sometimes an impossibility. Having said all of that, I will give you some general cancer statistical estimates that I came across in my research that will give you an idea of the impact of cancer in the U.S. I can honestly tell you that I have not personally verified this data.
Over 1 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year (1.2 is the 2001 estimate). One in three Americans will develop cancer at some time in their lifetime (over 85 million). More than 500,000 in the U.S. will die (more than 1500 a day), making it the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Worldwide there are over eight million new cases diagnosed each year. The saddest part of all of the statistics I found was that it is estimated that a 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. cancer deaths could be avoided through education and proper screening.
The outlook for Americans with cancer has improved steadily since the beginning of the 20th century, when few cancer victims survived for very long. By the 1930s, only one out of five cancer patients survived 5 or more years after treatment and were considered cured. Since then, that rate has climbed in almost every decade. During the 1940s, the 5-year survival improved to one out of four; in the 1960s, it was one out of three; and in the 1970s, 38 percent of cancer patients were considered cured. Today 51 percent of cancer patients survive for 5 years or more.
Yet, despite gains in treating many cancers and improved survival rates, cancer deaths continue to mount. While 143 people per 100,000 died of cancer in 1930, today the figure is nearly 180 per 100,000. Much of this increase is due to increased life expectancy (cancer incidence increases with age) and to marked increases in lung cancer.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease in the United States, but it is the major cause of death in women between the ages of 35 and 74. In children under the age of 15, cancer trails only accidents as the leading cause of death. If current trends continue, cancer is expected to be the leading cause of death in the United States by the year 2010. Many cancer myths persist, exaggerating its worst aspects. Although cancer is reputed to be a hopeless condition, nearly half of all cancer patients can expect to be alive and free of any sign of the disease in 5 years.
To read more about cancer statistics, you can visit these web pages:
ACS 2009 Statistics - you will need Adobe Acrobat to read the PDF files.
International Association of Cancer Registries - click on the map to find a list of cancer registries geographically.
NCI Understanding Statistics - click on the headings to learn more.