The Prevalence of Cancer

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Cancer is an extremely common disease in the United States. Men in the United States have a lifetime risk of slightly less than 50%, and women in the United States have slightly less than a 33% lifetime risk for some form of cancer (American Cancer Society 2009). These risk figures translate into an estimated 1,479,350 new cancer cases during the year 2009.

The most common forms of cancer are illustrated below. Cancers are listed in descending order of frequency of new cancer cases.

The majority of cancers occur sporadically, although 5% to 10% of cancers are heritable (American Cancer Society 2009). For those individuals who inherit a genetic predisposition for cancer, the risk of developing cancer is increased compared to general population risk(s). All cancer, whether occurring as part of a cancer syndrome or as an isolated case, develops in a similar multi-step process.

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Cancer facts and figures 2009. American Cancer Society. 2009. Available at: Accessed on: 2009-10-12.