Monitoring Health Care in America

Quarterly Fact Sheet – June 1996

Spotlight on: Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for an estimated 536,860 deaths in 1994. Only accidental deaths account for more years of potential life lost than cancer. Trends in cancer mortality have remained essentially flat for most of the second part of this century. In 1950 the age-adjusted death rate from cancer in the U.S. was 125 deaths per 100,000 population; by 1993 the cancer mortality rate was 133 deaths per 100,000. . . . Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., followed by colorectal cancer. Among men, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, followed by colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. Among women, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, followed by colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer. Breast cancer mortality rates for women have dropped in the past several years, from 23.3 deaths per 100,000 women in 1985 to 21.5 deaths per 100,000 women in 1993.


In 1993 there were nearly 1.5 million hospital discharges for inpatients with a first-listed diagnosis of cancer. An estimated 194,000 of these hospitalizations were due to cancer of the trachea, bronchus, and lung; 168,000 were attributed to breast cancer; 111,000 from colon cancer; and 123,000 from prostate cancer. . . . Cancer patients spent an average of 8.1 days in the hospital in 1993, compared with 12 days in 1980. . . . The average length of stay in 1993 for cancer of the large intestine was 11 days, while for breast cancer patients the average length of stay was 3.7. . . . In 1993 there were 124,000 mastectomies performed in the U.S., while 317,000 prostatectomies were performed on U.S. men.

Screening procedures

There were 22.2 million pap smears and 3.3 million manual breast examinations performed at physicians offices in 1994, as well as over 2.4 million skin biopsies. . . . In 1993, 60 percent of women aged 40 years and over reported having a mammogram in the past 2 years, while 47 percent of women 50-64 years of age reported having a mammogram within the past year. . . . The percent of women between ages 50 and 64 who reported a recent mammogram was lowest for uninsured women (20 percent) and highest for women enrolled in an HMO (59 percent). . . . Among women over age 65 with both Medicare and private coverage, those enrolled in HMOs were 31 percent more likely to report recent mammography than women with fee-for-service coverage. . . . Women aged 65 years and over with Medicare coverage alone were 36 percent less likely to report recent mammography than women with both Medicare and private fee-for-service coverage…

Other procedures

There were 301,000 bronchoscopies performed in the U.S. in 1993, with or without biopsies. Out of these, 125,000 were closed (endoscopic) biopsies of the bronchus; 66,000 were closed endoscopic biopsies of the lung. . . . There were 23,000 closed percutaneous (needle) biopsies performed on the lung in 1993 and 16,000 open biopsies performed on the lung… Among hospital inpatients, therapeutic radiology and nuclear medicine was used on 122,000 occasions in 1993, while chemotherapy was used in 388,000 instances.

For further information about “Monitoring Health Care in America” please contact NCHS, Office of Public Affairs (301)-436-7551 or via e-mail at

Data Sources

Health, United States

Health, United States, 1995. 328 pp. (PHS) 96-1232. GPO stock number 017-022-01339-8 price $25.00 [PDF – 2 MB]

Monthly Vital Statistics Report

Annual Summary of Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths: United States, 1994. Vol. 43 No. 13. 42 pp. (PHS) 95-1120 [PDF – 523 KB]

Vol. 43, No. 7, Supplement. Advance Report of Final Mortality Statistics, 1993.

Vital and Health Statistics Series Report

No. 122. Detailed Diagnoses and Procedures, National Hospital Discharge Survey, 1993. 288 pp. (PHS) 95-1783. GPO stock number 017-022-01323-1 price $24.00 [PDF – 1.6 MB]

No. 121. National Hospital Discharge Survey: Annual Summary, 1993. 63 pp. (PHS) 95-1782. GPO stock number 017-022-01317-7 price $5.00 [PDF – 489 KB]

Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics

No. 273. National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1994 Summary. 20 pp. (PHS) 96-1250 [PDF – 300 KB]

No. 264. 1993 Summary: National Hospital Discharge Survey. 12 pp. (PHS) 95-1250 [PDF – 108 KB]