CDC works to prevent cancer and improve the health of people with cancer.
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, but many kinds of cancer can be prevented or caught early.
- Leading risk factors for preventable cancers are smoking, getting too much UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, being overweight or having obesity, and drinking too much alcohol.
- Some kinds of cancer (like breast, cervical, and colorectal) can be caught early through screening. Other kinds can be prevented—for example, cervical cancer through vaccination and colorectal cancer through removal of abnormal growths in the colon and rectum before they turn into cancer.
- The cost of cancer care is expected to reach almost $174 billion by 2020.
- CDC works to prevent cancer risk factors, improve screening rates, and reduce health disparities, which are differences in health across different geographic, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.
Each year in the United States, more than 1.6 million people are diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 600,000 die from it, making it the second leading cause of death. The cost of cancer care continues to rise and is expected to reach almost $174 billion by 2020. CDC is a leader in efforts to reduce preventable cancers and improve the health of cancer survivors. Several divisions within CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion work to reduce risk factors for preventable cancers, promote screening to catch cancer early, and collect data on all notifiable cancer cases in the United States.
Preventable Risk Factors and CDC’s Response
Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Exposure
Smoking and secondhand smoke cause about 90% of lung cancer deaths in the United States. Smoking also causes cancer of the voice box (larynx), mouth and throat, esophagus, urinary bladder, kidney, pancreas, cervix, colon, rectum, liver, and stomach, as well as a type of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia. About 34 million US adults smoke cigarettes, and every day, about 1,600 young people under age 18 try their first cigarette.
Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work have a 20% to 30% higher risk of lung cancer. Secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among US nonsmokers each year. In the United States, 58 million nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke every year.
CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health is at the forefront of the nation’s efforts to reduce deaths and prevent chronic diseases, including cancer, that result from smoking. CDC and its partners promote efforts to prevent young people from starting to smoke, create smokefree worksites and public spaces, help smokers quit, and reduce health disparities for groups with higher rates of chronic diseases caused by smoking.
CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®) campaign, the first federally funded tobacco education campaign, focuses on motivating US adults who smoke to try to quit. Tips features real people—not actors—who are living with serious health conditions caused by smoking and secondhand smoke exposure. It connects people who smoke with resources to help them quit, including 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which directs people to free services from their state quitlines.
Exposure to Sun and Tanning Beds
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or tanning beds. Although use of sun protection has increased slightly in recent years, sunburn is common in the United States, with about one-third of adults and over half of high school students getting sunburned each year.
CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control (DCPC) provides leadership for national efforts to reduce illness and death caused by skin cancer. Each year, CDC publishes the Skin Cancer Prevention Progress Report as a follow up to The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer released in 2014. These reports highlight recent prevention efforts, new data, and success stories. CDC also conducts surveillance and research to provide data on rates of new melanoma cases, sunscreen use, and indoor tanning behaviors.