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

From the WebMD Archives

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.

Blacks, Hispanics, and most other minorities are less likely than whites to have health insurance.

Cleveland Clinic oncologist Derek Raghavan, MD, called the lack of access to care among minorities a national emergency at a Wednesday news conference.

“Time is our enemy,” he said. “We can cure cancer if we find it early. If they are left (undiscovered) too long, the chance of cure is often still there, but it is greatly reduced.”

American Cancer Society (ASC) Chief Medical Officer Otis Brawley, MD, co-chaired an ASCO health disparities advisory group with Raghavan.

Brawley cited recent ASC research finding the survival rate among uninsured patients with stage I colon cancer to be 6% lower than insured patients with stage II colon cancer.

“In the United States, you are actually better off having more advanced colon cancer with insurance than having stage I cancer without insurance,” he said.

The ACSO efforts will focus on:

  • Increasing research into the quality of care provided to minority populations
  • Increasing minority enrollment in clinical trials
  • Increasing diversity in the oncology field, “to provide more culturally appropriate care to minority patients”
  • Reducing economic barriers to cancer care

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on April 30, 2009



Smith, B.D., Journal of Clinical Oncology, April 28, 2009; online edition.

 Benjamin D. Smith, MD, U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, Lackland Air Force Base; adjunct assistant professor, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston.

Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer, American Cancer Society; co-chair, ASCO Health Disparities Advisory Group. 

Derek Raghavan, director, Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center, Cleveland, Ohio; co-chair, ASCO Health Disparities Advisory Group.

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