Despite decades of research, the cure for cancer remains elusive, and this year millions of people across the globe will be diagnosed with cancer.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease. Although cancer can be deadly, it also is highly treatable when detected early.
While cancer can affect every area of the body, some cancers are more prevalent than others. The following are some of the most common forms of cancer in North America.
• Skin cancer: The Skin Cancer Foundation states that each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidences of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of his or her lifetime. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and is rarely fatal, but it can be disfiguring. Melanoma accounts for less than 2% of skin cancer cases but is attributed to the most deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
• Lung cancer: Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the primary cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the Unites States, says the National Cancer Institute. Rates of lung cancer are on the decline as more and more people avoid tobacco, the use of which greatly increases a person's risk of developing lung cancer. Risk also is increased by exposure to secondhand smoke, environmental exposures, such as radon, workplace toxins (e.g., asbestos and arsenic) and air pollution.
• Uterine cancer: Uterine cancer is the most common form of female reproductive cancer. The National Institutes of Health offers that, since 2002, overall incidence rates have not changed significantly, whereas mortality rates have been slowly rising since 2001. There is no routine screening method for uterine cancers, and many women do not know they have the disease unless they notice certain symptoms, such as unusual bleeding.
• Prostate cancer: It's estimated that one in six men in the United States will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime, and prostate cancer accounts for roughly 25% of all new cancer cases among men in Canada. It's the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men (excluding skin cancer) and the second most common cause of death.
• Colorectal cancer: The third most common cancer among men and women, 95% of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas, says the ACS. These types of cancers start in gland cells, like the cells that line the inside of the colon and rectum. Because it can be embarrassing to get screened for colorectal cancer, some people put it off until it is too late. Speak to your physician about screening guidelines and recommendations.
• Breast cancer: Excluding skin cancer, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women, though it also can affect men. Early detection is imperative.