US Cancer Survivors to Soar in Next 10 Years

Increase of Nearly One Third

Nick Mulcahy

March 27, 2013

It is projected that the number of cancer survivors in the United States will increase by nearly one third in the next 10 years, according to a report published online March 27 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.

By 2022, there will be 18.0 million cancer survivors, which is a 31% increase over the approximately 13.7 million cancer survivors as of January 2012, investigators report.

"The increase in the number of survivors will primarily be due to an aging of the population. By 2020, we expect that two thirds of cancer survivors are going to be age 65 or older," said senior investigator Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at the National Cancer Institute, in a press statement.

The aging baby boomer demographic is the most significant driver of the boon in cancer survivorship, according to the investigators. But it is not the only one.

"Owing to advances in early detection and cancer treatment, people are living longer after a cancer diagnosis, giving rise to a growing proportion of long-term survivors," Dr. Rowland and her colleagues write.

They found that, over the study period, 64% of this cancer population will have survived at least 5 years after diagnosis, 40% will have survived at least 10 years, and 15% will have survived at least 20 years. It is projected that over the next decade, the number of people who have lived at least 5 years after their cancer diagnosis will increase approximately 37%, to 11.9 million.

This trend will be expensive. By 2020, the growth of the cancer survivor population will lead to an estimated 27% increase in the overall cost of cancer care from 2010 levels, the investigators note.

They used the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results database and population projections from the US Census Bureau for their analysis.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) sponsored the report, which is also serving as the AACR's second Annual Report on Cancer Survivorship in the United States.

Notably, the report shows that survival is not uniform across cancer subtypes. For example, currently, women with breast cancer account for 22% of survivors and men with prostate cancer account for 20%. However, men and women with lung cancer only represent 3% of all survivors.

The increase in cancer survivors will present challenges to the healthcare community, the investigators note.

"Efforts are needed to identify effective and efficient models for delivering long-term follow-up care," they write. Other pressing matters include the need to develop infrastructure to collect long-term clinical and patient-reported outcome data from survivors, the need to harness health information and other technologies that facilitate care coordination and improvement in survivors' long-term health outcomes, and the need to improve integrative palliative care.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Published online March 27, 2013. Abstract