U.S. Cancer Death Statistics
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Only heart disease kills more people. Roughly 600,000 Americans died from cancer in 2017—nearly 185 deaths for every 100,000 people.
Cancer is caused by the development of neoplasms (tumors) which divide uncontrollably, spreading to and destroying surrounding tissues. There are many kinds of cancer, and many risk factors associated with them—notably tobacco and alcohol use. This report shows mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s WONDER database.
Cancer Mortality Trends in the United States
Nationally, the mortality rate for cancer has steadily declined since the 1990's. The American Cancer Society attributes this drop to a concurrent decline in smoking rates, as well as better methods for early detection and treatment of cancer.
Cancer mortality has declined even as the incidence rate—that is, the rate of new cancer cases among the population—has remained relatively stable. Over the past decade of available data, cancer incidence for men decreased by about 2 percent and remained roughly unchanged for women.
How do cancer statistics vary by state?
Nationally, the death rate for cancer has steadily declined since the 1990's. The American Cancer Society attributes this drop to a concurrent decline in smoking rates, as well as better methods for early detection and treatment of cancer. However, geographic disparities remain.
Note: Hover over a state to see its data; to view data from a different year, use the time-slider beneath the map.
Demographic Differences in Cancer Deaths
Nationally, men are more likely to die from cancer than women. In 2017, about 181 men per 100,000 died from cancer; for women, the rate was about 131 deaths per 100,000.
Both men and women have experienced major declines in cancer death rates. In 1999, 252 men per 100,000 died of cancer; for women, the rate in 1999 was 167 per 100,000. The disparity in cancer mortality between men and women is known to the medical community and may reflect a complex set of factors, including differences in behavioral risk factors, access to medical care, and biological differences.
Cancer affects certain groups of people at different rates. Nationally, African Americans have the highest rate of cancer mortality, and Asians/Pacific Islanders have the lowest.
Just as many factors can contribute to cancer risk, disparities in cancer mortality arise from a complex set of factors as well. For example, members of minority groups are more likely to be poor. According to the National Cancer Institute, people in poverty, in turn, often lack adequate medical care and are more likely to be exposed to environmental risk factors, such as air pollution.
A chronic disease, cancer disproportionately affects the elderly. For young Americans, deaths from cancer, while tragic, are relatively rare.
• "Cancer statistics, 2018." National Center of Biotechnology Information, 2018.
• “Cancer Facts and Figures.” American Cancer Society, 2018.
• "Sex Disparities in Cancer Mortality and Survival." NCBI (NIH), 2018.
• “Cancer Health Disparities Research.” National Cancer Institute (NIH), 2018.
• “Cancer Prevention and Control.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018.
About the Data
Mortality data in this story was queried from the CDC Wonder API, based on the following parameters:
• UCD code: [C00-C97].
The charts show the CDC's age-adjusted rate, rather than crude rate, to account for variations in age-distribution and population size—with the exception of the chart comparing rates by age group.