The Status of Cancer 2013

Cancer Progress Report 2013: Contents

In this section you will learn:

  • There are an estimated 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States.
  • More than 1.6 million Americans are projected to receive a cancer diagnosis in 2013 and more than 580,350 are expected to die of the disease.
  • Global cancer incidence is predicted to increase from 12.8 million new cases in 2008 to 22.2 million in 2030.
  • Cancer is the most costly disease to our nation.

Definitive Progress has Been Made Against Cancer

Significant progress has been and continues to be made against cancer. This progress is the result of dedicated efforts across all sectors of the biomedical research enterprise to increasingly translate basic scientific discoveries about cancer into new and better ways to detect, diagnose, and treat this disease (see Figure 1). Indeed, in just 11 of the 12 months since the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2012 (Sept. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 11 new drugs for treating cancers, three new uses for previously approved anticancer drugs, and three new imaging technologies. 

Due in part to advances like these, more people survive their cancer today than in the past (see Figure 2). The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that approximately 13.7 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive on January 1, 2012 (1). This is almost 2 million more than its previous estimate of nearly 12 million in 2008 (2), and more than 10 million more than in 1971, the year the U.S. Congress passed the National Cancer Act (3).

The progress has been spurred by many decades of investments in basic, translational, and clinical research by the federal government, philanthropic individuals and organizations, and the private sector. Of particular importance are the investments in basic research supported by public funds through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NCI. Together, investments in biomedical research from all sectors have led to decreases in incidence for many of the more than 200 diseases we call cancer; cures for some of these diseases; and higher quality and longer lives for many individuals whose cancers cannot yet be prevented or cured. 

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Even in the Face of Progress, Cancer Remains a Significant Problem

Unfortunately, advances have not been uniform for all types of cancer. The five-year survival rates for some cancers, such as the most aggressive form of brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme), and pancreatic, liver, and lung cancers, have not improved significantly over the past four-plus decades and remain very low, at 4 percent, 6 percent, 14 percent, and 16 percent, respectively (1, 4). In contrast, the five-year survival rates for women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and for children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia have increased from 75 percent and 58 percent, respectively, to 90 percent or more since the mid-1970s (1). Moreover, advances have not been identical for all patients with a certain type of cancer, nor is the burden of cancer distributed evenly across the population, due to numerous interrelated factors. 

Despite significant improvements in survival from many cancers, it is estimated that 580,350 Americans will die from some form of cancer in 2013 (1). Cancer will account for nearly one in every four deaths, making it the second most common cause of disease-related death in the United States. Unless more effective preventive interventions, early detection tools, and treatments can be developed, it will not be long before cancer is the leading cause of death for all Americans, as it already is among the U.S. Hispanic population (5). 

It is projected that more than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2013 (1).  This number will dramatically increase in the next two decades, largely because cancer is primarily a disease of aging (1). Most cancer diagnoses occur in those aged 65 and older (1, 4), and this portion of the population is rapidly growing (6, 7) (see Figure 3). Compounding the problem is the increasing prevalence of obesity and the continued use of tobacco products by nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population, both of which are linked to an elevated risk for several cancers (8, 9). Given these compelling statistics, cancer prevention represents an area of particular promise because it is estimated that more than half of the cancer deaths that occur in the United States are preventable through lifestyle modifications (10). 

Cancer is not unique to America; it is a global problem. Cancer incidence worldwide is predicted to increase from 12.8 million new cases in 2008 to 22.2 million in 2030 (11). Without the development of more effective preventive interventions and treatments, this will translate to more than 13 million lives claimed by cancer in 2030 (12).

Cancer: An Expensive Disease. Biomedical Research: A Wise Investment

Of all major causes of disease worldwide, cancer has the greatest economic burden from premature death and disability. The global economic toll is 20 percent higher than that from any other major disease, at $895 billion in 2008 (13). This figure does not include the direct costs of treating cancer. In the United States, the latest estimates from the NIH indicate that the overall economic costs of cancer in 2008 were $201.5 billion: $77.4 billion for direct medical costs and $124.0 billion for lost productivity due to premature death (1). 

Given that cancer is the most costly disease to our nation, and it is poised to become the number one killer of Americans, it is urgent that we increase our investments in the scientific research needed to develop more effective interventions. This report highlights many of the remarkable recent advances that are the direct result of the dedicated work of thousands of researchers funded through the federal government and other sectors of the biomedical research enterprise. There is little doubt that the ability of these researchers to continue making lifesaving progress is in significant jeopardy given that NIH and NCI budgets are decreasing (see Funding Cancer Research and Biomedical Science Drives Progress). 

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Cancer Progress Report 2013 Contents

American Association for Cancer Research Foundation
The AACR Cancer Progress Report is published by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The mission of the AACR is to prevent and cure cancer through research, education, communication, and collaboration.

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