The 20 Most Common Types of Cancer

In all forms, it's a disease 15 million Americans are living with.

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In 2017, according to American Cancer Society research, nearly 601,000 Americans died of cancer—or, put another way, just short of 1,650 people daily. Among causes of death in the United States, cancer is surpassed only by heart disease. What's more, recent estimates indicate that about 15 million Americans are living with some form of cancer today. It's a sobering thought—that few among us are no more than a degree or two of separation from someone living with a malignant, life-threatening, indiscriminately deadly condition. To call it an epidemic wouldn't be a hyperbolic statement.

Not all of the news is so grim, however. Over the past 30-odd years, the medical community has made significant progress. Thanks to technological advancements and the proliferation of progressive treatments, the relative survival rate—which is defined as people who survive for five or more years after diagnosis—has increased about 20 percent across the board, bringing the figure up to 68 percent. All told, that amounts to more than 2 million fewer cancer deaths than figures from the late 1990s. And for certain cancers (prostate, thyroid), the rate hovers around the 99 percent mark. In short, when it comes to beating cancer, our society is undeniably on the up-and-up.

Still, it's good to keep some perspective; though certainly less common, the disease is still out there, ravaging. What follows is a list, per World Cancer Research Fund International data, of the most common types of cancer in the world. (All figures are from 2012, the latest year for which full data is available.) And to increase your chances of dodging the disease altogether, be sure to avoid the 20 Everyday Habits That Increase Your Cancer Risk.

1
Lung

lung cancer ribbon

New diagnoses (2012): 1,825,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 13

Despite a precipitous drop in smoking rates, lung cancer is still the deadliest. According to the American Cancer Society, about a third of the 600,000 U.S. cancer deaths can be directly linked to cigarette smoking. The single best thing you can do to prevent lung cancer—and this warrants repeating ad infinitum—is to quit. For good.

2
Breast

prevent breast cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 1,677,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 11.9

You're significantly more likely to develop breast cancer if you're a woman; less than 1 percent of new diagnoses of breast cancer are for men. To help prevent the disease, learn the 40 Ways to Prevent Breast Cancer After 40.

3
Colorectum

Colon cancer
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New diagnoses (2012): 1,361,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 9.7

Your risk of developing colorectum—or colon, as it's more colloquially referred—skyrockets after you turn 50. If you experience frequent, serious stomach pain or start seeing sudden changes in your bowel movements, visit your doctor.

4
Prostate

Movemember is about men's prostate health. types of cancer
Shutterstock

New diagnoses (2012): 1,112,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 7.9

In certain cases of prostate cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic, the disease "may not cause serious harm." However, if you experience any difficulty peeing or spot even a speck of blood in your semen, it's time to get checked out. For more on the disease, read about exactly what it's like to live with it day-to-day.

5
Stomach

habits after 40 types of cancer
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New diagnoses (2012): 952,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 9.7

Also known as gastric cancer, this condition can fly under the radar for years. But if there's a sudden onset of severe indigestion, inexplicable nausea, or irrepressible heartburn, that may be a bad sign.

6
Liver

liver cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 782,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 5.6

Liver cancer, though frightfully common, is more preventable than other types of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, "excess alcohol consumption" is a leading cause of the condition. If you're at all concerned about your alcohol consumption, See What Your Drinking Habits Say About Your Health.

7
Cervix uteri

doctors office types of cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 528,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 3.7

Cervix uteri, or cervical, cancer can occur in women as young as 14 years old, and is caused by, among other factors, four strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Be sure to get all three of your HPV vaccine shots—and to get regular PAP smears.

8
Oesophagus

throat cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 456,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 3.2

Among smoking-related cancers, lung cancer is the most common. Oesophagus cancer—also known more commonly as esophageal carcinoma—is a close second. Again, quit smoking.

9
Bladder

bladder cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 430,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 3.1

More men than women are diagnosed with bladder cancer, but the condition afflicts folks of all genders—typically in middle-age and older adults, though. If you experience blood in your pee, it's time to see a doctor.

10
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Sneezing types of cancer
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New diagnoses (2012): 386,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.7

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma occurs when cancerous cells attack your body's lymphatic system, or the part of your immune system that helps combat infections. Many symptoms—a persistent cough, regular stomach pain, rapid weight fluctuation—are symptoms of other conditions, so, to determine if you're afflicted, it's best to undergo a lymph node exam.

11
Leukemia

blood types of cancer
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New diagnoses (2012): 352,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.5

Leukemia, also known as blood cancer, afflicts people of all ages; indeed, though highly unusual, people can even be born with it. (Thankfully, according to the folks at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, it's highly treatable and even curable with aggressive treatment.) Since leukemia can take on many different forms—acute or chronic, myelogenous or lymphocyctic, and that just scratches the surface—it's tough to diagnose. Generally, an initial blood test can give insight as to whether you have it or not.

12
Kidney

kidney cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 338,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.4

Kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer are, per the most recently available figures, equally common. Unlike other cancers, which can be treated through radiation and chemotherapy, kidney cancer is typically treated via surgical removal of malignant tumors in the kidney—or, in extreme cases, of the entire organ.

13
Pancreatic

pancreatic cancer ribbon

New diagnoses (2012): 338,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.4

Pancreatic cancer most commonly occurs in elderly people. But if you experience sudden-onset diabetes (and have no family history for diabetes) or experience recurring abdominal pain that radiates to your spine, either could be a sign of pancreatic cancer.

14
Corpus uteri

woman with cancer

New diagnoses (2012): 320,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.3

According to the Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, the cause of corpus uteri, or endometrial, cancer is largely unknown. However, women who are 50 and older, overweight, and have high blood pressure are at increased risk.

15
Lip/Oral

quitting smoking types of cancer
Shutterstock

New diagnoses (2012): 300,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.1

Remember when we mentioned "ad infinitum?" Once more: Quit smoking.

16
Thyroid

thyroid woman getting neck ultrasound

New diagnoses (2012): 298,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 2.1

Your thyroid is responsible for producing the triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), two hormones that control everything from how your metabolism functions to how balanced your libido is. Thyroid cancer doesn't show signs early on, so, if you suddenly feel a lump on your neck—or if you've gone hoarse for seemingly no reason and have trouble swallowing—consult your doctor.

17
Brain

old man filled with regret

New diagnoses (2012): 256,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 1.8

There are more than a dozen forms of brain cancer. Some types, like glioblastoma—which adheres directly into brain tissue, and thus can never be completely removed—are more dangerous than others. Though brain cancer can affect people of all ages, older adults are more at risk than those from other age groups.

18
Ovarian

talking to doctor about big boobs

New diagnoses (2012): 239,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 1.7

Ovarian cancer is terrifying in its insidiousness; many of the symptoms—bloating, random weight loss, pelvic discomfort, increased need for urination—are symptomatic of other, less serious conditions. As such, many cases go undiagnosed until the disease reaches later stages.

19
Melanoma (skin)

doctor holding skin cancer ribbon

New diagnoses (2012): 232,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 1.6

Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, is most often caused by continued to exposure to ultraviolet radiation—whether through a tanning bed or a day too many on the beach. Of the diagnosed cases, there's a roughly 50-50 split between noninvasive (sticks to the top layer of the skin) and invasive (penetrates multiple layers) forms of the disease. For more insight into the disease, learn the 20 Skin Cancer Symptoms Everyone Needs to Know.

20
Gallbladder

hands holding a gallbladder ribbon

New diagnoses (2012): 178,000

Percent of cancer cases (global): 1.3

Gallbladder cancer, according to the American Cancer Society, generally doesn't display symptoms until the disease has progressed into later stages. There, you may notice increasingly itchy skin, darker urine, and abdominal pain on the upper-right part of your belly. Your doctor might also be able to diagnose the disease by feeling around your abdomen for lumps (which are caused by cancer-blocked bile ducts).

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Ari Notis
Ari is a senior editor, specializing in news and culture. Read more
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