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Press Release

Embargoed until noon EDT
June 24, 2004
Contact: CDC National Center for Chronic Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion
Press Office
(770) 488-5131
National Cancer Institute Press Office
(301) 496-6641

Number of Cancer Survivors Growing According to New Report

There are 9.8 million cancer survivors in the United States, according to a new report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). A cancer survivor is defined as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the balance of his or her life. The findings are published in the June 25 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “Cancer Survivorship – United States, 1971 – 2001.”

“Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. The number of cancer survivors in this country has increased steadily over the past 30 years for all cancers combined. We expect the number of survivors to increase as improvements are made in cancer detection, treatment and care and as the population ages,” said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

The report was produced by NCI in partnership with CDC. The authors used incidence and follow-up data from NCI’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program to estimate annual cancer prevalence – the number of people living following a diagnosis of cancer – and trends in cancer survivorship.

The data show that:

  • 64 percent of adults whose cancer is diagnosed today can expect to be living in five years;
  • Breast cancer survivors make up the largest group of cancer survivors (22 percent) followed by prostate cancer survivors (17 percent) and colorectal cancer survivors (11 percent);
  • The majority (61 percent) of cancer survivors are aged 65 and older;
  • An estimated one of every six people over age 65 is a cancer survivor;
  • Seventy-nine percent of childhood cancer survivors will be living five years after diagnosis and nearly 75 percent will be living 10 years following diagnosis.

“The findings in this report have important implications for both the public and health practitioners. There is a growing need to promote health and ensure the social, psychological and economic well-being of cancer survivors and their families. In the past, public health programs concentrated on early detection and prevention of cancer. However, the focus has now expanded to include cancer survivorship, transforming survivorship research into practice, and developing clinical guidelines to provide attentive follow-up and health promotion to survivors,” said Dr. Loria Pollack, CDC medical officer.

CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control is supporting states, tribes and tribal organizations to develop and incorporate survivorship priorities into their comprehensive cancer control plans. CDC is also working with national organizations to promote education, awareness and community programs that offer services and support for cancer survivors.

In response to the growing number of cancer survivors in the United States, many organizations are involved in survivorship issues. Recently, CDC and the Lance Armstrong Foundation released a National Plan for Cancer Survivorship: Advancing Public Health Strategies. Also, the President’s Cancer Panel released a report, Living Beyond Cancer: Finding a New Balance, earlier this month.

“Issues faced by cancer survivors include maintaining optimal physical and mental health, preventing disability and late-effects related to cancer and its treatment, and ensuring social and economic well-being for themselves and their family,” said Dr. Julia Rowland, director of the Office of Cancer Survivorship at NCI. She adds, “NCI takes these factors into consideration when conducting research to identify, examine and prevent or control adverse effects associated with cancer. We are working to enhance survivors’ quality of life.”

# # #

EDITORS NOTE: For a copy of the MMWR article, visit CDC’s Web site at


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This page last updated June 24, 2004

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