Fighting the C Word: Four Most Common Types of Cancer
Almost everyone has a story to tell of how their lives have been affected by cancer. Whether through their own illness, that of a loved one, or someone they know, cancer, in its various forms, is pervasive. Each year 12.7 million people worldwide are diagnosed with some form of the disease. While it is the leading cause of death globally, there is hope. Scientists continue to make advances in treatments and therapies, and screening and early detection continue to improve outcomes for individuals who catch the disease in its early stages and receive proper treatment.
According to the World Health Organization, the four most prevalent types of cancer are breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate.
Breast cancer diagnosis made up 12.5% of all new worldwide cancer cases in 2020. While this type of cancer primarily affects women, a small number of men develop breast cancer as well. For women, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer. Fortunately, an increase in screening, improved understanding of the role hereditary factors and breast density play in an individual’s risk profile, and developments in treatments have led to continued year over year improvements in survival rates.
Lung cancer is, perhaps, one of the most avoidable forms of cancer with most cases resulting from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Other causes include exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, coal tar and radon. Finally, there is a hereditary component to the disease as well so knowing your family history is important to assessing your risk for the disease. As you would expect, early diagnosis improves survivability rates but even those diagnosed at later stages are experiencing the chance to live longer, fuller lives as treatments continue to improve.
Also known as bowel cancer, colorectal cancer impacts the colon or rectum. Worldwide, it is the third most common cancer in men and the second most common in women. Like breast cancer, improvements in screening and early detection have improved the outcomes. According to the CDC about nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are detected early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.
A prostate cancer diagnosis impacted over 1.4 million men worldwide in 2020. While it is the fourth most common form of cancer overall, it is the second most common for men, specifically. According to cancer.net 60% of cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older. Like the other forms of cancer we’ve covered, early detection and treatment is key, with a survival rate of nearly 100% for those whose cancer is found while still localized to the prostate and nearby organs.
Mitigating your risk for cancer
While there are many factors outside of our control when it comes to developing cancer, there are things you can do to help improve your chances of avoiding illness. Maintaining a healthy weight, remaining physically active, eating a healthy, balanced diet and quitting smoking can all have a positive effect on your health.
In addition, knowing your risk profile, staying on top of routine screenings and addressing symptoms early can also significantly impact your ability to identify cancer in its early stages, so that you can get proper treatment and improve your odds of controlling or curing the disease.