Mar 9, 2015

Cancer and Clinical Trials—by the numbers

Every once in a while we find it helpful to take a step back from clinical trial results, experimental drugs, and finding a clinical trial to look at some other cancer information. Today it’s taking a look at the big picture—the numbers, or as close to the facts as we can get. 

In the Wide, Wide World
This year 9,000,000 people worldwide will die from cancer and the number is rising. That is 13% of all deaths. The U.S. ranks 58th in the rate of world cancer deaths. That means 57 countries have lower rates of cancer deaths than we do. The rates are much higher in Poland and Hungary and much lower in Mexico, Iran and many other countries. 

There are growing numbers of people in the world with cancer. How can this be with all the improvements we have made in diagnosis and treatment? Well, there are more and more older people throughout the world. The number one risk factor in getting cancer is to get older. And, more people are living longer with cancer. Then there are factors like pollution and smoking, which is still very popular around the world.

Close to Home
14.5 million living Americans have or have had cancer. 1.6 million more will be diagnosed this year and 589,000 will die from cancer. And, of all those individuals, only about 3% (42,000) will ever volunteer to participate in a clinical trial. You can help improve that statistic!

In the U.S. the 5-year cancer survival rate for all cancers was 49% in 1977. It is 68% today—and much higher for some cancers such as prostate (99%). Earlier diagnosis, better treatment, and lower smoking rates have helped. The most common cancers in the U.S. are breast, prostate, and lung. Breast and prostate cancer have high survival rates, lung cancer has a very low survival rate‑‑still.

Over a lifetime your chance of getting cancer of any kind is 37% if you are a woman and 43% if you are a man. You can avoid some cancers (stay out of the sun, don’t smoke) but others seem to just happen. 

How About some $ and Sense?
Cancer is expensive. In the U.S., cancer treatment costs exceed $88 billion each year. Half of that is for Doctor and out-patient Hospital costs. 35% is for in-Hospital treatment and 11% is for prescription drugs. That’s a lot of money to help us stay alive. And costs are going to increase.

Cancer is very common, horrible, expensive, and unpredictable. The numbers in this article won’t cure you, probably didn’t surprise you, and will not likely change any of your behaviors and choices. But you never know…


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To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

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