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U.S. Cancer Statistics Technical Notes

The Impact of Cancer

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death among Americans. One of every four deaths in the United States is due to cancer.1 2 The 2018 release of United States Cancer Statistics data indicates in 2015 (the most recent year of incidence* data available), 1,633,390 Americans received a new diagnosis of invasive cancer and 595,919 Americans died from this disease.3 These counts do not include in situ cancers or the more than 1 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers. The National Cancer Institute estimated that on January 1, 2015, 15.1 million Americans were alive with a history of invasive cancer.4

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) estimated that for 2014, the direct medical costs‡ for cancer, including all health care expenditures, were $87.3 billion, of which 58.1% was spent on hospital outpatient or office-based provider visits, 27.0% on inpatient hospital stays, and 12.4% on prescription medications.5

*2015 is the most recent year for which incidence data are available. These data include cancer deaths during 1999 through 2015. Cancer mortality data for 2016 are available and can be accessed at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) National Vital Statistics System (NVSS).

Data are from selected central cancer registries, covering 100% of the U.S. population, that meet the data quality criteria for all invasive cancer sites combined. See registry-specific data quality information.

The estimates of direct costs are obtained from the AHRQ’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Cancer Prevention

Several effective primary and secondary prevention measures could substantially reduce the number of new cancer cases and prevent many cancer-related deaths. To reduce the nation’s cancer burden, we must reduce behavioral and environmental factors that increase cancer risk and ensure that high-quality screening services and evidence-based treatments are available and accessible to everyone, including medically underserved populations.6 7 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) has supported all 50 states, D.C., tribes and tribal organizations, Pacific Island Jurisdictions, and Puerto Rico in developing comprehensive cancer control plans, which include proven strategies and planned actions to prevent cancer in their geographic regions.8

How Cancer Data Are Collected

Cancer registries collect population-based data about the occurrence of cancer (incidence), the types of cancer (morphology), the site in the body where the cancer first occurred (primary site), the extent of disease at the time of diagnosis (stage), the planned first course of treatment, and the outcome of treatment and clinical management (survival and vital status).9 10 Cancer incidence data are reported to metropolitan area, regional, and statewide cancer registries from a variety of medical facilities, including hospitals, physicians’ offices, radiation facilities, freestanding surgical centers, and pathology laboratories. Death data, including deaths due to cancer, are recorded on death certificates that are sent to state vital statistics offices. Death data include information regarding primary cancer site, and may also include morphology according to International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10).

Uses of Cancer Data

Information derived from population-based central cancer registries and from state vital statistics systems is critical for directing effective geographic area and population-specific cancer prevention and control programs that focus on preventing behaviors that put people at increased risk for cancer (such as smoking), and on reducing environmental risk factors (such as occupational exposure to known carcinogens). This information also is essential for deciding which geographic areas should have cancer screening programs, and for making long-term plans for adequate diagnostic and treatment services. Combined data at the national, regional, state, and county levels help federal and state public health officials establish, prioritize, and monitor national initiatives in public health surveillance and track progress toward the national goals and objectives set forth in Healthy People.

Additional resource: Archive of the Annual Reports to the Nation


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Burden of Chronic Diseases and Their Risk Factors: National and State Perspectives 2004. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2005.
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Statistics. Atlanta (GA): American Cancer Society; accessed June 4, 2018.
  3. U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. U.S. Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations Tool, based on November 2017 submission data (1999–2015): U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute;, June 2018.
  4. Noone AM, Howlader N, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975–2015, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD,, based on November 2017 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER website, April 2018.
  5. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Table 3: Total Expenses and Percent Distribution for Selected Conditions by Type of Service: United States, 2014. Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component Data. Generated interactively April 25, 2018.
  6. Curry SJ, Byers T, Hewitt M. Fulfilling the Potential of Cancer Prevention and Control. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press; 2003.
  7. Haynes MA, Smedley BD. The Unequal Burden of Cancer: An Assessment of NIH Research and Programs for Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press; 1999.
  8. National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program. Comprehensive Cancer Control Plans. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  9. American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. Standards of the Commission on Cancer Vol II: Registry Operations and Data Standards (ROADS). Chicago (IL): American College of Surgeons; 1998.
  10. Fritz A, Ries LAG. The SEER Program Code Manual, third edition. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute; 1998.