More Cancer Survivors in US Than Citizens in Illinois

Pam Harrison

June 02, 2016

At the beginning of 2016, more than 15.5 million Americans were alive after a cancer diagnosis, and the number of survivors is expected to increase to more than 20 million over the next decade, new research shows.

To put those numbers in perspective, current survivors amount to a population larger than that of Illinois (the fifth most populous state), and future survivors would rival the population of New York (the third most populous state).

"The number of cancer survivors continues to grow in the United States, despite overall declining incidence rates in men and stable rates in women," write Kimberly Miller, MPH, from Surveillance and Health Services Research at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and her colleagues.

"It is therefore important for providers to understand the unique medical and psychosocial needs of survivors, as well as their caregivers, and to be aware of resources that can assist in navigating the various phases of cancer survivorship," the authors write.

Their analysis of survivorship statistics was published online June 2 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Miller and her colleagues used data from Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results cancer registries to estimate numbers of current and future cancer survivors. They obtained mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The team used relative survival to define survival rates for people with a history of cancer. For relative survival, survival in patients with a history of cancer is compared with that in the general population, after age, race, and sex are controlled for.

Importantly, the authors did not include carcinoma in situ for any cancer except urinary bladder cancer and basal/squamous cell carcinomas in their analysis.

"The three most prevalent cancers in 2016 are prostate (3,206,760), colon and rectum (724,690), and melanoma (614,460) among males, and breast (3,560,570), uterine corpus (757,190), and colon and rectum (727,350) among females," Miller reported.

The disease was diagnosed in the previous 10 years for 56% of cancer survivors, and 47% were 70 years and older at the time of the analysis, although there was an association between age and type of cancer. For example, almost two-thirds of men who survive prostate cancer are older than 70 years, and less than 1% are younger than 50 years.

Overall, for men with prostate cancer, relative survival rates at 10 years are 98% and at 15 years are 95%.

For all stages of prostate cancer combined, relative survival increased from 83% in the late 1980s to 99% from 2005 to 2011, Miller reported. But 5-year survival declined from close to 100% in men with localized disease to less than 30% in men with metastatic disease.

For women with a history breast cancer, 89% are alive at 5 years, 83% are alive at 10 years, and 78% are alive at 15 years.

For men and women with colorectal cancer, 65% are alive at 5 years and 58% are alive at 10 years. However, when colorectal cancer is detected at a localized stage, 90% of patients are still alive at 5 years.

"Melanoma incidence rates continue to increase in men, but have recently stabilized in women," Miller observed. For men and women combined, 92% of patients diagnosed with melanoma are alive at 5 years, and 89% are alive at 10 years. And when melanoma is diagnosed at a localized stage, the 5-year survival rate is 98%.

Common Cancer in Women

"Cancer of the uterine corpus is the second most prevalent cancer among women, after breast cancer," Miller said. Median age at diagnosis is 62 years, she added.

For women with uterine cancer, 82% are alive at 5 years and 79% are alive at 10 years. The relatively high survival rates in these women likely reflect the fact that slightly more than two-thirds of uterine cancers are diagnosed at an early stage.

"The majority of disease-free cancer survivors report good quality of life 1 year after treatment," Miller said.

In fact, the emotional well-being of longer-term survivors is "generally comparable" to that reported by people with no history of cancer. In contrast, a significant number of cancer survivors report being less physically well than their noncancer peers.

"Several practical interventions for survivors addressing diet, weight, and physical activity have been developed and tested," Miller noted. "Future research should focus on identifying the best methods for encouraging cancer survivors to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle," she added.

The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

CA Cancer J Clin. Published online June 2, 2016. Abstract

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