Cancer: General Information

Synonyms and Related Terms

Synonyms of cancer:


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Back to: « Cancer


Category of cancer:

  • disease of cellular proliferation


Category of cancer:


Prevalence of Cancer

In 2014, about 1.6 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States.

Source: NCI (NIH)4

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About 70,000 young people (ages 15-39) are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States - accounting for about 5 percent of cancer diagnoses in the United States. This is about six times the number of cancers diagnosed in children ages 0-14.

Source: NCI (NIH)5

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How common is cancer in children?

Although cancer in children is rare, it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States. In 2014, it is estimated that 15,780 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,960 will die of the disease in the United States (1).

As of January 1, 2010, there were approximately 380,000 survivors of childhood and adolescent cancer (diagnosed at ages 0 to 19 years) alive in the United States (1). The number of survivors will continue to increase, given that the incidence of childhood cancer has been rising slightly in recent decades and that survival rates overall are improving.

Source: NCI (NIH)6

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Cancer occurs more frequently in adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 39 years than in younger children, although incidence in this group is still much lower than in older adults. According to NCIís Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program (3), each year in 2001-2007 there were:

  • 32.1 cancer diagnoses per 100,000 children ages 0 to 14 years
  • 138.6 cancer diagnoses per 100,000 adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 39 years
  • 2,053.8 cancer diagnoses per 100,000 people aged 40 years or older

About 70,000 adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 39 years are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year.

Source: NCI (NIH)7

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Cancer survivors largely consist of people who are 65 years of age or older and women. Of the 11.7 million people living with cancer in 2007, 6.3 million were women, and the largest group of cancer survivors were breast cancer survivors (22%).

Source: CDC Features8

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Cancer is a major cause of illness in Australia and has substantial social and economic impact on individuals, families and communities. For all cancers combined, the incidence rate increased between 1982 and 2008, before decreasing in 2013 and an expected decrease in 2017. The decrease has mainly been observed in males, and is strongly influenced by changes in the incidence rate of prostate cancer.

Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare9

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More than one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime.

Source: NHS Choices UK10

World Prevalence of Cancer

Around the world, 12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer every year, and the number is expected to increase due to the growth and aging of the population, as well as reductions in childhood mortality and deaths from infectious diseases in developing countries(1).

Source: CDC NIOSH11

Geographic Factors for Cancer

The number of new cancer cases in Queensland are among the highest in the world.† Nearly 60% of new cancers as well as cancer deaths will be among men.† It is possible that one third of cancers can be prevented, a further third can be detected early with the remaining third able to receive effective palliative care.

Source: Queensland Government12

Contagiousness of Cancer

Is cancer contagious?

In general, no. Cancer is not a contagious disease that easily spreads from person to person. The only situation in which cancer can spread from one person to another is in the case of organ or tissue transplantation.

Source: NCI (NIH)13

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Can cancer surgery or a tumor biopsy cause cancer to spread in the body?

The chance that surgery will cause cancer to spread to other parts of the body is extremely low. Following standard procedures, surgeons use special methods and take many steps to prevent cancer cells from spreading during biopsies or surgery to remove tumors. For example, if they must remove tissue from more than one area of the body, they use different surgical tools for each area. For information about how cancer spreads in the body, see our page on Metastatic Cancer.

Source: NCI (NIH)14

Onset Age of Cancer

A similar pattern is seen for many common cancer types. For example, the median age at diagnosis is 61 years for breast cancer, 68 years for colorectal cancer, 70 years for lung cancer, and 66 years for prostate cancer.

But the disease can occur at any age. For example, bone cancer is most frequently diagnosed among people under age 20, with more than one-fourth of cases occurring in this age group. And 10 percent of leukemias are diagnosed in children and adolescents under 20 years of age, whereas only 1 percent of cancer overall is diagnosed in that age group. Some types of cancer, such as neuroblastoma, are more common in children or adolescents than in adults.

Source: NCI (NIH)15

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Adolescents and young adults are more likely than either younger children or older adults to be diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, testicular cancer, thyroid cancer, and sarcoma (17).

Source: NCI (NIH)16

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More people are developing cancer - mainly because the population is growing and getting older.

Source: New Zealand Health17

More Information about Cancer

Organizations Serving AYAs

A growing number of organizations serve the needs of AYAs with cancer. Some organizations help young people cope or connect with peers who are going through the same things. Others address topics such as fertility and survivorship. There are also radio and call-in programs that bring together young people and medical experts to share information and advice. You can also search a range of general emotional, practical, and financial support services in NCIís list of Organizations That Offer Support Services. You are not alone.

Source: NCI (NIH)18

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Find out about New Zealandís most common cancers and where to find more about cancer, treatment and support.

Source: New Zealand Health19

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More information

The following links have more useful information about cancer.

  • Cancer Research UK: cancer symptom checker
  • Macmillan: signs and symptoms of cancer
  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): referral for suspected cancer

Source: NHS Choices UK20

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  1. Source: Disease Ontology
  2. ibid.
  3. Source: Monarch Initiative
  4. Source: NCI (NIH): about-cancer/ causes-prevention/ patient-prevention-overview-pdq
  5. Source: NCI (NIH): types/ aya
  6. Source: NCI (NIH): about-cancer/ causes-prevention/ risk/ infectious-agents/ hpv-vaccine-fact-sheet
  7. Source: NCI (NIH): types/ childhood-cancers/ child-adolescent-cancers-fact-sheet
  8. Source: CDC Features: cancer/ dcpc/ resources/ features/ WomenAndCancer/ index.htm
  9. Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: reports-statistics/ health-conditions-disability-deaths/ cancer/ about
  10. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Cancer/ 
  11. Source: CDC NIOSH: niosh/ topics/ cancer/ 
  12. Source: Queensland Government: health/ staying-healthy/ men-women/ men/ cancer
  13. Source: NCI (NIH): about-cancer/ causes-prevention/ risk/ myths
  14. ibid.
  15. Source: NCI (NIH): about-cancer/ causes-prevention/ risk/ age
  16. Source: NCI (NIH): types/ childhood-cancers/ child-adolescent-cancers-fact-sheet
  17. Source: New Zealand Health: your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses/ cancer
  18. Source: NCI (NIH): types/ aya
  19. Source: New Zealand Health: your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses
  20. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ cancer/ symptoms/ 

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.