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Next decade will see 4 million more cancer survivors


The number of cancer survivors in the United States is expected to rise by 31%, from 13.7 million to 18 million, between January 2012 and 2022, according to a report released by the American Association for Cancer Research.

“The increase in the number of survivors will be due primarily to an aging of the population,” Julia Rowland, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Surviorship at the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a news release.

“By 2020, we expect that two-thirds of cancer survivors are going to be age 65 or older.”

The second “Annual Report on Cancer Survivorship in the United States” was based on an analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program and population projections from the U.S. Census Bureau, both government-funded databases.

Survival is not uniform across cancer subtypes, according to the report. Women with breast cancer account for 22% of survivors, while men with prostate cancer make up 20%. People with lung cancer, the second-most commonly diagnosed cancer, represent only 3% of survivors.

The contrast is stark. Patients diagnosed with prostate cancer have nearly a 100% five-year survival rate, and the five-year survival rate for breast cancer rose from 75% in 1975 to almost 89% in 2012. “However, we clearly need to have better diagnostic tools and better treatments for lung cancer,” Rowland said.

The increase in the cancer survivor population will present new challenges for the healthcare community, Rowland said. Patients diagnosed with cancer likely will have comorbid conditions that need to be managed, and Rowland estimates 16% will have had a previous malignancy.

“How to ensure that these patients lead not only long lives, but healthy and productive lives, will be a vital challenge to all of us,” Rowland said.

The report was published March 27 on the website of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. The abstract of the report is available at


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