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In 2008, more than half of all new cancers were cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, and colon/rectum. According to American Cancer Society projections there were 1,437,180 new cases of cancer in 2008, including 186,320 prostate cancers; 184,450 female breast cancers; 215,020 lung cancers; and 148,810 cancers of the colon/rectum.
Cancer incidence is usually measured as the number of new cases each year for every 100,000 people (for gender-specific cancers, people of the same gender serve as the denominator) and age-adjusted (to a standard population) to allow comparisons over time.
Incidence rate: The observed number of new cancer cases per 100,000 people per year are adjusted for cancer case reporting delays, based on data from approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population.
All sites combined: Incidence was on the rise until 1992, when it began to decline.
Prostate cancer: Incidence rose beginning around 1988, peaked in 1992, then fell until around 1995, after which it was stable.
Female breast cancer: Incidence rose between 1980 and 2001, then began to fall through 2005.
Colorectal cancer: Incidence rose until 1985. It has fallen steadily since then, except for a slight non-significant rise during the period 1995–1998.
Lung cancer: Incidence of lung cancer increased until 1991, after which it fell.
In 2005, new cases of cancer occurred at the following rates:
All sites combined: 468.1 per 100,000 people per year
Prostate: 155.4 per 100,000 men per year
Female breast: 125.5 per 100,000 women per year
Colorectal: 47.4 per 100,000 people per year
Lung: 62.9 per 100,000 people per year
There is no Healthy People 2010 target for cancer incidence.
Among major racial/ethnic groups, Blacks have the highest rate of new cancers. Rates are relatively low among American Indians/Alaska Natives with regionally higher rates of some cancers. These disparities are not likely due to genetic differences. Rather, they are more likely due to social, cultural, behavioral, and environmental factors.
Although lung cancer incidence rates in women have recently stabilized, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in women. This highlights the need to reduce smoking prevalence and environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure among all women, focusing especially on those populations whose tobacco use and ETS exposure remains high, such as women with lower levels of education.
The recent decline in new breast cancer incidence is thought to be related to the decline in HRT use and the small decline in screening using mammography. Although most major cancers are occurring less frequently, cancers of some sites are on the rise and require greater efforts at control, including:
The incidence of some relatively rare cancers, including those of the liver, pancreas, and esophagus which are highly fatal is rising.