How Many People Die From Cancer Each Year?

The estimated number of new cancer cases in the United States in 2020 was 1,806,590, and 606,520 people were expected to die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, after heart disease, and it is estimated that one out of every six deaths documented globally is caused by cancer.

Two measures are used to document cancer deaths. One is mortality incidence, which is the number of deaths, and the other is death rate, which is the mortality rate. The mortality rate is measured in the number of deaths per 100,000 people. This allows us to take a comparative look at the cancer mortality rate in the U.S. compared with that of the rest of the world.

The bulk of annual deaths in the U.S. are caused by 10 cancers. While the mortality rate of some types of cancers is dropping, the mortality rate of others are increasing.

Doctor sharing bad news with family member

wilpunt / Getty Images

1

Lung Cancer

X-ray of lung showing chest cancer


Peter Dazeley

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the lungs. There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. Small cell lung cancer, sometimes called oat cell cancer, though rarer (10% to 15% of all lung cancers), grows and spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common, and accounts for 80% to 85% of all lung cancers.

Lung Cancer Statistics 2020
 Number of new cases 228,820
 Percentage of all new cancer cases 12.7% 
 Number of deaths 135,720 
 Percentage of all cancer deaths 22.4% 
 Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 3.6% per year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

Lung cancer can develop in anyone, but is more commonly diagnosed in adults over 65. Smoking is a major risk factor for lung cancer: People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer or die from lung cancer than non-smokers. It is estimated that smoking causes about 90% of lung cancers.  

However, that doesn't mean people who don't smoke won't get lung cancer. In fact, 10% to 20% of lung cancers occur in those who never smoked or smoked fewer than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime.

Causes of Lung Cancer

Smoking is not the only cause of lung cancer. Other causes include radon exposure, secondhand smoke, air pollution, and long-term exposure to asbestos. In some people, lung cancer can develop for no reason at all. This type of lung cancer is found mostly in young adults with specific gene changes.  

2

Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer, artwork


SCIEPRO

Colorectal cancer often starts as growths on the inner lining of the colon or rectum, which are called polyps. Some, but not all, polyps become cancerous. Excluding skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S. Roughly 4.3% of men and 4% of women will develop colorectal cancer at some point in their life.

This type of cancer can occur in people of any age, but those who are 65 to 74 years old are at highest risk of dying from the disease. It is also most commonly found in older adults, with over 75% of all cases occurring in those who are 55 and older. However, new cases of colorectal cancer have declined slightly over the past decade among older adults (but rising among people under 50 and those who are 50 to 64).

Colorectal Cancer Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 147,950
Percentage of all new cancer cases 8.2%
Number of deaths 53,200
Percentage of all cancer deaths 8.8%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 2.1% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

The death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. This could be attributed to the fact that polyps are now being found more often by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers, or that cancers are being found earlier when they are easier to treat.

The five-year relative survival rate of colorectal cancer varies depending on the stage of the disease (localized, regional, or distant). If it is caught early in the localized stage where the cancer hasn't spread, the relative survival rate is 90.2%. 

3

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer. Magnification 150X.


Lester V. Bergman

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, except for skin cancers. Breast cancer cells usually form a tumor that can be seen on x-ray or felt as a lump. It occurs mostly in women, but men can get it as well. The prognosis for breast cancer tends to be positive: It has a five-year relative survival rate of 90%. There was a slight increase (0.3%) in the number of new breast cancer cases from 2008 to 2017.

Breast Cancer Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 276,480
Percentage of all new cancer cases 15.3%
Number of deaths 42,170
Percentage of all cancer deaths 7%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 1.4% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

According to the American Cancer Society, the number of men who are expected to develop breast cancer in the United States in 2021 is low at just over 2,000. Men have a lifetime risk of breast cancer of one in 833.

Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer

There is a persistent mortality gap between Black women and white women when it comes to breast cancer. While the incidence of the disease is similar in both groups, Black women have a 40% higher death rate from breast cancer. The disparity is even greater in the younger demographic: The mortality rate among young Black women is double that of young white women.

4

Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreas cancer, computer illustration.


SEBASTIAN KAULITZKI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Pancreatic cancer starts in the pancreas. There are two types of pancreatic cancer: exocrine pancreatic cancer, which is most common, and neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most common form of exocrine pancreatic cancer, and makes up 95% of all cases. Although pancreatic cancer accounts for a very small number of total new cancer cases, it has a low five-year relative survival rate of just 10%. 

Pancreatic Cancer Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases  57,600
Percentage of all new cancer cases 3.2%
Number of deaths 47,050
Percentage of all cancer deaths 7.8%
Trends in annual deaths Increasing by 0.3% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

Pancreatic cancer is slightly more common in men than women, and is more likely to occur in those over the age of 55. The average lifetime risk of pancreatic cancer is about one in 64.

5

Prostate Cancer

Benign prostatic hyperplasia, illustration

KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Prostate cancer develops in the prostate gland, with adenocarcinoma being the most common type. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the U.S. after skin cancer. About one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during his lifetime.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. About one man in 41 will die of prostate cancer.

Age is the biggest risk factor when it comes to prostate cancer, and the majority of cases are found in men aged 55 to 74. About six in 10 cases of prostate cancer are found in men older than 65.

Prostate Cancer Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 191,930
Percentage of all new cancer cases 10.6%
Number of deaths 33,330
Percentage of all cancer deaths 5.5%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 1.8% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

The decrease in annual deaths can be attributed to enhanced screening measures and improved treatment options. Prostate cancer is now associated with the best overall outcomes, and the five-year relative survival rate of the disease is 97.8%.

Racial Disparities in Prostate Cancer

Black men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than any other ethnicity. They are also twice as likely to die from the disease, possibly due to the fact that many of them are diagnosed when their cancer is at an advanced stage and that they are more likely to get prostate cancer at a young age than men of other ethnicities.

6

Liver Cancer

Human Internal Digestive Organ Liver Anatomy


magicmine

Liver cancer begins in the liver and is caused by conditions that lead to liver damage, most notably viral hepatitis and cirrhosis. Liver cancer is more commonly found in men and in those of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. A majority of those with liver cancer have some signs of cirrhosis.

Liver Cancer Statistics 2020
 Number of all new cases  42,810
Percentage of all new cancer cases 2.4%
Number of deaths 30,160
Percentage of all cancer deaths 5%
 Trends in annual deaths Increasing by 1.7% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

The overall five-year relative survival rate of liver cancer is low at only 19.6%. For those who are diagnosed with early-stage or localized liver cancer, that number increases to 34.2%.

Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer

Chronic hepatitis B and C infections are the culprits behind close to 40% of all liver cancer deaths. It is thought that the rise in liver cancer death rates could be attributed to the fact that viral hepatitis cases have also been increasing. It’s also thought that many people with viral hepatitis are unaware that they have a chronic infection. As a result, they have liver damage, which increases the risk of liver cancer.

7

Leukemia

Leukaemia blood cells, SEM

Science Photo Library - STEVE GSCHMEISSNER.

Leukemia is a cancer of blood-forming tissues, including bone marrow. It is most commonly found in white blood cells, but it can start in other blood cell types too. There are five types of leukemia: acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, chronic myeloid leukemia, and chronic myelomonocytic leukemia. They are classified by whether they are fast-growing or slow-growing and whether they start in myeloid cells or lymphoid cells.

Leukemia is the most common cancer among children and teens, accounting for almost one out of three cancers. Most childhood leukemias are acute lymphocytic leukemia.

The exact cause of leukemia is unclear, but risk factors for the disease have been identified such as previous treatment with chemotherapy and smoking.

Leukemia Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 60,530
Percentage of all new cancer cases 3.4%
Number of deaths 23,100
Percentage of all cancer deaths 3.8%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 1.7% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

With a 63.7% five-year survival rate, the outlook for many leukemia patients is optimistic. The age group with the most deaths from leukemia is 75 to 84 years old, although those aged 65 to 74 and those over 84 also have a higher risk of death because of the disease.

8

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, light micrograp


Dr_Microbe

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the body's immune system. It affects the body's lymph system, which is part of the immune system and helps move fluid through the body. Lymphoma can start anywhere in the body where lymph tissue is found, including the spleen, thymus, tonsils, adenoids, and lymph nodes. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma usually affects adults, but it can develop in children as well.

There are over 30 different types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. They are classified depending on the type of lymphocyte that is implicated in the development of the disease like B-cells and T-cells.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 77,240
Percentage of all new cancer cases 4.3%
Number of deaths 19,940
Percentage of all cancer deaths 3.3%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 2.2% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

The overall five-year relative survival rate for non-Hodgkin lymphoma is 72.7%. That number rises to 83.5% if the cancer is diagnosed in the early or localized stages.

9

Bladder Cancer

Bladder cancer, light micrograph


STEVE GSCHMEISSNER

Bladder cancer develops in the cells in the bladder. When those cells multiply, tumors form. There are four main types of bladder cancer, with urothelial carcinoma, also known as transitional cell carcinoma, being the most common.

It is much more common in men than women. It is the fourth most common cancer in men. The lifetime risk of having bladder cancer is one in 27 for men and one in 89 for women. Those of Caucasian descent are also more likely to develop bladder cancer than any other ethnicity. The risk of developing bladder cancer increases with age, and about nine out of 10 people with bladder cancer are over 55.

Bladder Cancer Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 81,400
Percentage of all new cancer cases 4.5%
Number of deaths 17,980
Percentage of all cancer deaths 3%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 0.6% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

The overall five-year relative survival rate of bladder cancer is 76.9%, and that among those in the localized or early stages is 95.8%.  

Bladder Cancer Risk Factors

The cause for bladder cancer is not known, but there are some risk factors that can contribute to the disease, including smoking, exposure to hazardous materials or chemicals, some medications and supplements, and genetics or family history.

10

Kidney Cancer

Kidney cancer, artwork


SCIEPRO

Kidney cancer begins in the kidneys. The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma, which accounts for about nine out of 10 cases. It usually grows as a single tumor in a kidney, but sometimes there are two or more tumors in one kidney or tumors in both kidneys.

Kidney cancer is twice as common in men than in women. The lifetime risk for developing kidney cancer is about one in 46 for men and one in 80 for women. Black, American Indian, and Alaskan Native populations are more likely to develop this disease than any other ethnicity. The average age of people when they are diagnosed with kidney cancer is 64. This type of cancer is very uncommon in people below 45.

Kidney Cancer Statistics 2020
Number of all new cases 73,750
Percentage of all new cancer cases 4.1%
Number of deaths 14,830
Percentage of all cancer deaths 2.4%
Trends in annual deaths Decreasing by 1.4% each year on average
National Cancer Institute SEER Report 2020

The overall five-year survival rate for kidney cancer is 75.2%. If the disease is found in the early or localized stage, that number jumps to 92.6%.

A Word From Verywell

Cancer survival rate, regardless of type, is a lot higher when the disease is caught and treated early. Thanks to advances in research and cancer treatments, the mortality rate of some types of cancer has declined over the past few decades. While scientists have not identified the exact cause of cancer, they uncovered some of the risk factors that contribute to different types of cancer. This knowledge is one of your strongest defenses against cancer. If you have any of these risk factors, it's important to follow screening recommendations and monitor for signs of cancer. Getting the necessary vaccinations such as the HPV and hepatitis B vaccines can also help protect you from particular types of cancer.

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31 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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