40 Most Common Types of Cancer in People Over 40
Don't let yourself be blindsided by these common cancers.
Over time, your body's cells become damaged due to everything from the sun's harmful rays to bad habits like smoking. And if that damage builds up enough, your risk of cancer might increase in your later years as a result. In fact, a staggering 80 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States every year are in those 55 and older. Want to know what you should look out for as you reach your 40s, 50s, and beyond? From more common conditions like breast cancer to rare diseases like adrenal cancer, these are the specific types of cancer you should ask your doctor about as you age.
Unfortunately, the biggest risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and getting older. "Breast cancer in women is the most common cancer diagnosed, and the incidence increases with age," says Regina Brown, MD, an oncologist at UCHealth in Lone Tree, Colorado.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most breast cancer cases occur in women over the age of 50. Other factors that can increase your risk? Your genetics, your reproductive history, and having dense breasts.
Metastatic Breast Cancer
Unlike typical breast cancer, metastatic breast cancer spreads outside the breast and on to other parts of the body, including the brain, bones, and lungs. Unfortunately, 30 percent of those who are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will develop metastatic breast cancer at some point during their lifetime, according to Breastcancer.org. Most often, women are diagnosed around 61 years old.
Eye cancer probably isn't anything you've ever thought about, but it's predicted that there will be 3,300 new cases in the U.S. in 2019. And this type of cancer is certainly one you need to pay mind to as you age: The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) says those over 50 years old are most affected, with 55 being the average age of diagnosis.
Your risk for Hodgkin's lymphoma—a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system—increases at two different ages. According to the American Cancer Society, it commonly develops in early adulthood (particularly in a person's late 20s) and in late adulthood (typically after 55 years old).
As your age increases, so too does your risk of developing Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, one of the most common types of blood cancer. According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, 77 percent of all cases occur in those who are 55 and older, with the average age of diagnosis being 67.
Stomach cancer—also known as gastric cancer—is one of the most common cancers after 40. Out of the 27,500 cases estimated to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019, 60 percent of people diagnosed are expected to be older than 65.
Your risk of bladder cancer increases if you're a smoker. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, smokers are three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers.
With that being said, though, your age also plays into your risk. "Bladder cancer is the sixth most common cancer and occurs more often in men than women," says Brown. "These tumors tend to arise in patients over 55 years of age." Specifically, according to the American Cancer Society, approximately 90 percent of patients with bladder cancer are over 55 years old.
Small Intestine Cancer
Small intestine cancer is pretty rare, but there are a few things doctors do know. It affects slightly more men than women, it's most common in African Americans, and smoking, alcohol, and eating diets high in red meat and smoked foods could increase your risk. Age is also a factor: It occurs most commonly in older individuals with the average age of diagnosis being in one's 60s and 70s.
There are so many different risk factors for gallbladder cancer, including having gallstones, being a woman, and being overweight or obese, according to the American Cancer Society. It is also often seen as an older person's cancer, with the average age of diagnosis being 72.
So how likely are you to get skin cancer in your later years? By 70 years old, one in every five Americans will have developed skin cancer, and more than two people die because of it every single hour. However, getting regular skin examinations from your doctor or dermatologist can help you catch and treat it early.
There are many factors that can put you at a higher risk of liver cancer. And while some of these factors you can control—like heavy alcohol and tobacco use—your age is one that you can't. According to the CDC, most people are diagnosed with liver cancer somewhere between the ages of 40 and 90.
Leukemia—a cancer that affects the blood-forming tissues in the body—might be thought of as something only children get, but it affects adults, too. In fact, the National Cancer Institute says that although it's the most common cancer in children under 15 years old, it's most often seen in adults over 55 years old.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death by a long-shot. According to the American Cancer Society, it's estimated that it will cause 143,000 deaths by the end of 2019. While your risk of developing lung cancer is higher if you're a smoker, age plays a role too: You're at the highest risk when you're between the ages of 55 and 80.
Any time you use tobacco—whether it's cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or the chewing variety—you're putting yourself at risk of esophageal cancer. However, according to the American Cancer Society, age is just as much a factor as tobacco use when it comes to this type of cancer; per the society, less than 15 percent of all cases of this cancer are seen in those under 55.
Kidney cancer affects more than 40,000 men and 23,000 women every year, with smoking being the most prominent risk factor, says the CDC. However, increasing age is also a risk factor; in 2016, the number of cases was positively correlated with age up until 80 years old.
Adrenal cancer—which affects the adrenal glands that are located above each kidney—only affects around 200 people every year. Even though it's a lot rarer than some of the other types on this list, it's still important to be aware of. The American Cancer Society says 15 percent of cases are caused by genetic defects; being overweight, smoking, and living a sedentary lifestyle could be culprits, too. Age can also be a factor, as most cases occur in those around 46 years old.
More than 56,000 people are estimated to be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States in 2019 alone. And while smoking is the biggest risk factor (it doubles your risk), age also plays a role. The American Cancer Society says almost all individuals with pancreatic cancer are over 45 years old, and the average age of a patient at their time of diagnosis is 70.
Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer
Women are at a much higher risk of thyroid cancer than men, with three of every four cases being in females. Gender isn't the only risk factor, though. According to ASCO, anaplastic thyroid cancer—one of four types of thyroid cancer—is usually diagnosed after the age of 60.
As you get older, so does your risk of developing colon cancer. Most cases occur in those over 50 years old with the average age of diagnosis being 68 for men and 72 for women. According to the American Cancer Society, it's predicted that there will be 100,000 new cases in the U.S. in 2019 alone.
Like colon cancer, your risk of rectal cancer—which affects the lining of the rectum—only increases as you age. It's estimated that there will be more than 44,000 new cases in 2019 in the U.S., and the typical age of diagnosis in both men and women is 63 years old.
Anal cancer has been on the rise, with 8,300 new cases expected to be diagnosed in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society.
Women have a slightly higher risk than men, and age plays a role as well. As the American Cancer Society notes, it typically occurs in older adults with most cases diagnosed in the early 60s.
While ovarian cancer is rarely seen in women under 40, everything changes once menopause comes around. "It's the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women and over half of patients diagnosed are over the age of 65," Brown says. Other factors that increase your risk in addition to getting older are being overweight or obese, having a child after age 35, using fertility treatments, and having a family history.
There are a handful of different risk factors that cause women to develop uterine cancer, including being overweight or obese, getting their period before age 12, and going through menopause after 50. Another common factor? Age. According to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, those between 50 and 70 years old are at an increased risk, and over half of the women diagnosed are over 55.
There are many risk factors women should be aware of when it comes to endometrial cancer, a specific type of uterine cancer. Obesity, having a family history of endometrial or colorectal cancer, and having type 2 diabetes can all increase your risk, as does your age. According to the American Cancer Society, the average age of diagnosis is 60 years old.
Vaginal cancer—which occurs in the cells that line the surface of the vagina, according to the Mayo Clinic—doesn't have a clear cause. One of the primary risk factors is simply your age, with the most common age of diagnosis being over 60 years old.
Fallopian Tube Cancer
Fallopian tube cancer—which affects the cells lining the inside of the fallopian tubes—can occur in women of all ages, but mostly impacts those between 50 and 60 years old, says the University of Texas. Other risk factors that may make a difference? Being caucasian, having few or no children, having a family history of fallopian tube cancer, and having certain gene mutations.
In 2019, it's predicted that more than 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., and more than 4,000 women will die at the hands of the disease. That's why it's so important to know your risk factors and get screened regularly—especially as you age. The American Cancer Society says cervical cancer mostly affects women between 35 and 44 years old, while around 15 percent of all cases occur in women 65 and older.
The lifetime risk of brain cancer is less than one percent. And while there isn't a surefire cause, there are some risk factors to be aware of, including being a woman, having a compromised immune system, and your age. Cancer Treatment Centers of America says the number of brain cancer cases increases with age, with most occurring after 65 years old.
Pituitary tumors affect the pituitary gland, which is located below the brain and right above your nasal cavity. According to the American Cancer Association, most of the 10,000 cases diagnosed every year are found in older adults, and—luckily—most are also benign.
Chondrosarcoma and Chordoma
Out of all the different types of bone cancers, a couple of them are more common in adults. Chondrosarcoma (which affects the cartilage of the femur, pelvis, knee, and spine) is most commonly diagnosed at 51 years old, and chordoma (which occurs in the bones at the base of the skull and spine) most often affects those in their 50s and 60s.
Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer—which includes cancers of the mouth, throat, nose, sinuses, and other areas in the region—is more often diagnosed in those over 50 years old, according to the CDC. However, age isn't the only factor that increases your risk of this cancer: Anyone who uses tobacco products or drinks an excessive amount of alcohol is increasing their risk every time they light up a cigarette or have a beer. "Ninety percent of the time, head and neck cancer patients are smokers. Seventy-five percent of the time, they abuse alcohol. It's the most preventable cancer," Brown says.
Paranasal Sinus and Nasal Cavity Cancer
Those who breathe in certain substances at work—such as wood dust, leather dust, flour, and nickel—are at an increased risk of nasal cavity and paranasal sinus cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Tobacco use and being male are also risk factors to be aware of, as well as your age: Most cases occur in those between 45 and 85 years old, according to ASCO.
Lip and Oral Cancer
Lip and oral cavity cancer—which is a type of head and neck cancer—most often comes about in men and is typically caused by two factors: tobacco and alcohol use. According to Compass Oncology, most of those diagnosed are over 60 years old.
Nasopharyngeal cancer—a lesser-known type of head and neck cancer—occurs when cancer cells form in your throat up behind your nose. According to the Mayo Clinic, the biggest risk factors include being a man, being of East Asian descent or northern Africa descent, and being between 30 and 50 years old.
Salivary Gland Cancer
Salivary gland cancer occurs when cancer cells form in your salivary gland tissues and it's often identified by having trouble swallowing or feeling a lump, says the National Cancer Institute. It accounts for one percent of cancer cases in the United States, and there are only a few known risk factors. Aside from being exposed to certain substances and undergoing treatment with radiation therapy to your head and neck, it also often affects those of older age—mostly around 64 years old.
Soft Tissue Sarcomas
There are more than 50 different types of soft tissue sarcomas, which occur in soft tissues like fat and muscle. While sarcomas only make up one percent of all cancers, they tend to occur slightly more in males and are mostly diagnosed in those over 60, according to the Cancer Network.
There are a few different risk factors for developing multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that forms in the plasma cells. Being exposed to radiation or chemicals can impact your risk, and it occurs twice as often in African Americans as it does caucasians. Age plays a role as well, with the majority of people being diagnosed over 60 years old, according to ASCO.
Penile cancer affects the tissues of the penis, and while it's also less common than other types of cancer, your risk increases if you've had human papillomavirus (HPV), if you smoke, and if you are older than 50 years old. In fact, according to ASCO, 80 percent of the men diagnosed with penile cancer are 55 or older.
Testicular cancer—which typically begins as a lump or swelling in a man's testicles—affects one in every 250 men at some point during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. While the average age of diagnosis is 33, 8 percent of cases occur in those over 55.
One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point during their life. "It's the most common cancer diagnosed in men, and the second leading cause of cancer death," Brown says. "The major risk factors are increased age, race—it's higher in African Americans—and diet, as there's an increased risk with eating animal fats." And for more on catching this cancer early, here are 17 Prostate Cancer Warning Signs Hiding in Plain Sight.
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