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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

“Future of Cancer Incidence in the United States: Burdens Upon an Aging, Changing Nation&#8221

The future of the United States (and the globe) includes massive numbers of cancers. Some of the numbers are set out below through the introduction to and the abstract from a 2009 predictive article by researchers working at the world’s best hospital for cancer treatment and research, MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.  The numbers are not new; to the contrary, the numbers have been and are well-known to the prudent and informed. As shown by yesterday’s post on “cancer lawsuits,” the numbers make it easy to see the future, and the numbers for cancer are and will be one of the drivers for the ever-expanding litigation industry. The full article is online and free – here.


One of the most defining sociodemographic changes ongoing in the United States is the dramatic increase in the number of older adults and minorities. Specifically, the number of adults age 65 years or older increased from 25 million in 1980 to 35 million in 2000, and is further expected to increase to 72 million by 2030 as the baby boomer generation ages (Figs 1A, 1B). Similarly, the number of minorities increased from 46 million in 1980 to 83 million in 2000, and is further expected to increase to 157 million in 2030 (Figs 1C, 1D). As cancer occurs more commonly in older adults, the aging of the United States’ population is expected to markedly increase the number of cancer diagnoses. The increase in minorities is also likely to impact cancer care, particularly as prior evidence suggests that certain minorities have higher cancer incidence rates and lower cancer survival rates as compared with white people. In addition, minorities and older adults represent important populations that may be particularly vulnerable to suboptimal cancer care, because both groups have been under-represented in cancer clinical trials and are also subject to disparities in cancer treatment.” (footnote citations omitted).




By 2030, the United States’ population will increase to approximately 365 million, including 72 million older adults (age 65 years) and 157 million minority individuals. Although cancer incidence varies by age and race, the impact of demographic changes on cancer incidence has not been fully characterized. We sought to estimate the number of cancer patients diagnosed in the United States through 2030 by age and race.


Current demographic-specific cancer incidence rates were calculated using the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results database. Population projections from the Census Bureau were used to project future cancer incidence through 2030.


From 2010 to 2030, the total projected cancer incidence will increase by approximately 45%, from 1.6 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030. This increase is driven by cancer diagnosed in older adults and minorities. A 67% increase in cancer incidence is anticipated for older adults, compared with an 11% increase for younger adults. A 99% increase is anticipated for minorities, compared with a 31% increase for whites. From 2010 to 2030, the percentage of all cancers diagnosed in older adults will increase from 61% to 70%, and the percentage of all cancers diagnosed in minorities will increase from 21% to 28%.


Demographic changes in the United States will result in a marked increase in the number of cancer diagnoses over the next 20 years. Continued efforts are needed to improve cancer care for older adults and minorities.

J Clin Oncol 27. © 2009 by American Society of Clinical Oncology”

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