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How Many People Will Have Cancer in 2030?

2.3 Million in the U.S., Says a New Study; Elderly, Minorities May Be Especially Hard Hit
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 30, 2009 -- Cancer incidence among minorities in the United States will double over the next two decades, from about 330,000 cases today to about 660,000 cases by the year 2030, a new study projects.

The dramatic spike in cancers predicted for elderly and minority populations is expected to lead to a 45% overall increase in cancer cases.

By the year 2030, 2.3 million people in the U.S. will be living with a diagnosis of cancer, compared to about 1.6 million in 2010, says radiation oncologist Benjamin Smith, MD.

He tells WebMD that the increase in cancers among minorities -- driven by aging, immigration, and birthrates that tend to be higher than among whites -- is especially troubling.

“The public health implications are really daunting,” he says. “This population is particularly at risk for not receiving adequate cancer care and, as a result, having worse outcomes from their cancer.”

Demographic Shift Drives Rise

Smith and colleagues from Houston’s University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center examined population growth projections from the U.S. Census Bureau and data from the nation’s largest cancer registry in their effort to understand what cancer will look like in the United States two decades from now.

“We all know that the U.S. population is getting older and that it is getting more diverse,” he says. “But we haven’t really understood how this change in the population will affect cancer incidence.”

The researchers project that:

  • Although the overall population of the U.S. will increase by 19% by 2030, cancer incidence will rise by more than double that number (45%).
  • In 2030, 1.6 million cancers will be detected in older Americans (65 and older) alone -- the same number expected among all age groups combined this year.
  • 70% of cancers will occur among the elderly in 2030, compared with 60% today. And 28% of cancers will occur in minorities -- up from 21% in 2010.
  • Liver and stomach cancers -- far more common among Hispanics and Asians than whites -- are projected to have the biggest rises in incidence. Both of the cancers have poor survival rates.

The rates of cancer in blacks, American Indian-Alaska Native, multiracial (non-Hispanic), Asian-Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics are projected to increase by 64%, 76%, 101%, 132%, and 142%, respectively.

Focus on Cancer Care Disparities

The study was published Wednesday in an online edition of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. 

In the same issue of the journal, officials with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released new policy recommendations aimed at addressing cancer care disparities among different racial and economic groups in the United States.

Studies show that uninsured Americans are less likely to get cancer screenings, more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer, and less likely to survive cancer, compared to people with insurance living in the U.S.

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