Statistics, Graphs and Definitions

Many people don't realize that individuals are considered survivors from the time of a cancer diagnosis through the rest of their life. Learn about key survivorship-related terms, and find survivorship-related statistics and graphs.

For additional cancer-related statistics, please visit NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.


Statistics

As of January 2019, it is estimated that there are 16.9 million cancer survivors in the United States. This represents approximately 5.0% of the population. 1

16.9 Million Cancer Survivors

22 Million Cancer Survivors by 2029

The number of cancer survivors is projected to increase by 29.1%, to 21.7 million, by 2029.1

26 Million Cancer Survivors in 2040, an 11 million increase from 2016

The number of cancer survivors is projected to grow to 26.1 million by 2040.1


Over the next decade, the number of people who have lived 5 or more years after their cancer diagnosis is projected to increase approximately 33%, to 15.1 million.1

15.1 Million Cancer Survivors living 5+ Years

67 percent of survivors living 5+ years
45 percent of survivors living 10+ years
18 percent of survivors living 20+ years
 

In 2019, 67% of survivors (10.3 million) have survived 5 years or more after diagnosis; 45% have survived 10 years or more; and 18% have survived 20 years or more.1


More Details About Cancer Survivors

64% of survivors are currently age 65 or older.1

It is estimated that by 2040, 73% of cancer survivors in the United States will be age 65 or older.1

64 percent are 65 years or older

Most common cancer sites represented include female breast (23%, 3.6 million)
Most common cancer sites represented include prostate (21%, 3.3 million)
Most common cancer sites represented include colorectal (9%, 1.5 million)
 

Among today's survivors, the most common cancer sites represented include female breast (23%, 3.9 million), prostate (22%, 3.7 million), colorectal (9%, 1.5 million), melanoma (8%, 1.4 million), and gynecologic (8%, 1.3 million).* 1

* Note: People may be represented more than once in these percentages if they have been diagnosed with more than one cancer. For example, a man who has survived both colorectal cancer and prostate cancer will be included as both a colorectal cancer survivor and as a prostate cancer survivor. Therefore, the sum of the percentages may be more than 100%.


Footnotes

  1. American Cancer Society. Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures 2019-2021. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2019.
  2. Projections based on data from Figure 1 in Bluethmann SM, Mariotto AB, Rowland, JH. Anticipating the "Silver Tsunami": Prevalence Trajectories and Comorbidity Burden among Older Cancer Survivors in the United States. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016;25:1029-1036.

Graphs

This page provides several cancer survivorship-related graphs. For additional statistics, including customized graphs or tables, please go to NCI's Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.

Prevalence Projections 1975–2040

Estimated and Projected Number of Cancer Survivors in the US from 1975-2040
 

Download "1975-2040" Graph (as PNG)

Prior Diagnosis of Cancer by Age

US Population Living with a Prior Diagnosis of Cancer by Age Range
 

Download "Cancer by Age" Graph (as PNG)

Rates of New Cancer Cases by Race/Ethnicity

Rates of New Cancer Cases by Race/Ethnicity
 

Download "New Cancer Cases by Race/Ethnicity" Graph (as PNG)

Rates of New Cancer Cases by Sex and Race/Ethnicity

Rates of New Cancer Cases by Sex and Race/Ethnicity
 

Download "New Cancer Cases by Sex and Race/Ethnicity" Graph (as PNG)

Definitions

Cancer Survivor: An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. There are many types of survivors*, including those living with cancer and those free of cancer. This term is meant to capture a population of those with a history of cancer rather than to provide a label that may or may not resonate with individuals.

Adapted from the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship

Cancer Survivorship Research: Cancer survivorship research seeks to improve the health and well-being of cancer survivors and caregivers providing care to survivors. It aims to improve understanding of the sequelae of cancer and its treatment and to identify methods to prevent and mitigate adverse outcomes, including functional, physical, psychosocial, and economic effects (Figure 1). This research also includes and informs the design, delivery, and implementation of evidence-based strategies and the coordination of healthcare services to optimize survivors’ health and quality of life from the time of diagnosis through the remainder of the survivor’s life. Any cancer survivorship research should clearly identify the type of survivor being studied (e.g. age, type and stage of cancer, time since diagnosis) and the outcomes of the research (e.g. function, quality of life, health care utilization, costs, survival).

Figure 1. Cancer Survivorship Research Framework

Cancer Survivorship Research Adapted from Nekhlyudov, L, Mollica, M., Jacobsen, P., Mayer, DK, Shulman, LN, Geiger, AM. (2019). Developing a Quality of Cancer Survivorship Care Framework: Implications for Clinical Care, Research and Policy. JNCI, 111(11): djz089, first published online May 16, 2019.

* Definitions of Cancer Survivors

There are many types of survivors, including those living with cancer and those free of cancer. All of these definitions begin at the time of diagnosis through the balance of the survivor’s life.

Mullan F (1985). Seasons of survival: reflection of a physician with cancer. N Engl J Med;313:270–273. National Coalition fo r Cancer Survivorship Miller K, Merry B, Miller J. Seasons of survivorship revisited. (2008) Cancer J.; 14(6):369-74. American Cancer Society (2012) Surbone A & Tralongo, P.. (2016). Categorization of cancer survivors: why we need it. J Clin Oncol;34:3372–3374. Park ER, Peppercorn J, El-Jawahri A. (2018) Shades of Survivorship. J Natl Compr Canc Netw.;16(10):1163-1165.
  • Acute
  • Extended
  • Permanent Survival
  • From the time of diagnosis and for the balance of life
  • Acute
  • Transitional
  • Extended
    • Remission maintained
    • Cancer Free
      • Permanent
    • Living with cancer

A cancer survivor is any person who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the balance of life.

The time from diagnosis to the end of initial treatment;
The transition from treatment to extended survival; Long-term survival. It encompasses a range of cancer experiences and trajectories, including:

  •  Living cancer-free for the remainder of life
  • Living cancer-free for many years but experiencing one or more serious, late complications of treatment
  • Living cancer-free for many years, but dying after a late recurrence
  • Living cancer-free after the first cancer is treated, but developing a second cancer
  • Living with intermittent periods of active disease requiring treatment
  •  Living with cancer continuously without a disease-free period
  • Acute
  • Chronic
  • Long Term
  • Cured
  • Patients newly diagnosed receiving active therapy with curative intent.
  • Patients who have completed active therapy with curative intent (on or off maintenance therapy).
  • Patients living with cancer.

Other relevant references on this topic include:

Marzorati, C., Riva, S., Pravettoni, G. (2017). Who is a cancer survivor? J Cancer Education; 32:228-237.

Hebdon M, Foli K, McComb S. (2015). Survivor in the cancer context: a concept analysis. J Adv Nurs.;71(8):1774-86.

Berry, LL., Davis, S., Flynn AG, Landercasper, J, Deming, KA. (2019). Is it time to reconsider the term ‘cancer survivor’. J Psychosocial Oncology; 37(4):413-426.  

Cancer Incidence
The cancer incidence rate is the number of new cancers of a specific site/type occurring in a specified population during a year, usually expressed as the number of cancers per 100,000 population at risk.1
Cancer Prevalence
Cancer prevalence is the number of people alive on a certain date who have been diagnosed with cancer. This includes individuals who are newly diagnosed, in active treatment, have completed active treatment, and those living with progressive symptoms of their disease. Prevalence is derived from long-term incidence and survival rates.1, 2
Complete Prevalence
Represents the proportion of people alive on a certain day who previously had a diagnosis of the disease, regardless of how long ago the diagnosis was, or if the patient is still under treatment or is "cured."2
Limited Duration Prevalence
Represents the proportion of people alive on a certain day who had a diagnosis of the disease within the past x years (e.g. x = 5, 10, 20, or 25 years).2
Observed Survival Rate
The observed survival rate, which is obtained using standard life table procedures, represents the proportion of cancer patients surviving for a specified length of time after diagnosis.1

For other cancer terms, see the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

Footnotes

  1. Howlader N, Noone AM, Krapcho M, Miller D, Brest A, Yu M, Ruhl J, Tatalovich Z, Mariotto A, Lewis DR, Chen HS, Feuer EJ, Cronin KA (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1975-2017, National Cancer Institute. Bethesda, MD, https://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2017/, based on November 2019 SEER data submission, posted to the SEER web site, April 2020.
  2. Cancer Prevalence Statistics Overview
Last Updated
September 24, 2020