Deadliest Cancers

Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 19 May 2022

Cancer Incidence

As you age, the risk of developing cancer increases. Cancer's primary risk factor is advanced age. Cancer is diagnosed in more than nine out of ten people aged 45 and over. Seniors over the age of 74 accounts for almost 28% of all new cancer cases.

The researchers are unsure why this is the case. It is possible that the passing decades provide your cells with additional time to become faulty or mutate and develop into cancer. Or that you've been exposed to radiation, tobacco smoke, toxins, and other cancer-causing agents for a longer period of time as you grow older.

The incidence rate is a term for expressing the number of new cancer cases in a particular population. For more than a decade in the United States, the annual number of new cancer cases has been declining steadily. Cancer incidence rates provide a critical but incomplete image of the disease. For instance, if more people are screened, cancer incidence will increase. This was the case in the early 1990s, when the incidence of prostate cancer in men increased significantly as a result of widespread testing.

Mortality Rates

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020. The most common in 2020 (in terms of new cases of cancer) were:

  • breast (2.26 million cases);
  • lung (2.21 million cases);
  • colon and rectum (1.93 million cases);
  • prostate (1.41 million cases);
  • skin (non-melanoma) (1.20 million cases); and
  • stomach (1.09 million cases).

The most common causes of cancer death in 2020 were:

  • lung (1.80 million deaths);
  • colon and rectum (935 000 deaths);
  • liver (830 000 deaths);
  • stomach (769 000 deaths); and
  • breast (685 000 deaths).

Cancer Types by Age

The relationship between cancer and age varies according to the type of cancer. For instance, the most often diagnosed cancers in children 14 and younger are leukaemia, lymphoma, and brain or central nervous system cancer. Over one in every four people diagnosed with bone cancer is under the age of 20.

Numerous cancers become more likely as people grow older. Over the next ten years, one in every 870 women aged 40 will develop ovarian cancer. For women over 80, the probability is threefold greater, or one in every 283 women.

Among the most frequently diagnosed cancers in adults under the age of 50 are the following:

  • Leukemia and lymphoma
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Germ cell tumors

Among the most commonly diagnosed cancer in adults over the age of 50 are melanoma and cancers of the:

  • Breast
  • Lung
  • Prostate
  • Colon
  • Bladder

Certain cancers, such as lung, pancreatic, and ovarian cancers, are often difficult to detect before they reach an advanced stage. As a result, by the time your doctor discovers them, the cancer may have already begun to spread. Breast cancer, melanoma, and prostate cancer are often detected earlier.

The following are the median ages at which cancers are diagnosed, broken down by type:

  • Breast: 62
  • Lung: 71
  • Prostate: 66
  • Pancreas: 70
  • Colon: 67
  • Melanoma: 65
  • Bladder: 73
  • Cervix: 50
  • Ovary: 63

Your Cancer Risks

Age is only one factor that influences whether or not you get cancer. Some factors are beyond your control, such as a family history of cancer, gender, or race and ethnicity. However, there are certain things you can do to reduce the cancer risk.

About one-third of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioral and dietary risks:

  • high body mass index
  • low fruit and vegetable intake
  • physical inactivity
  • tobacco use
  • alcohol use

These are some things you can do to prevent cancer or minimise your risk of developing cancer. Eat a good diet, don't smoke, stay out of the sun, and exercise regularly and reducing alcohol consumption are just a few of them. If you have any concerns, speak to your doctor.


Referenced on  4/5/2021

  1. WHO Cancer Fact Sheet: 
  2. National Cancer Institute: “Age and Cancer Risk,” “Childhood Cancers,” “Risk Factors for Cancer,” “Cancer Statistics.”
  3. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program: “Cancer Stat Facts: Cancer of Any Site,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Common Cancer Sites,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Female Breast Cancer,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Lung and Bronchus Cancer,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Prostate Cancer,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Colorectal Cancer,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Melanoma of the Skin,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Bladder Cancer,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Pancreatic Cancer,” “Cancer Stat Facts: Cervical Cancer,” Cancer Stat Facts: Ovarian Cancer.”
  4. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: “Why Does Cancer Risk Increase As We Get Older?” “What Are the Most Common Cancers in Each Age Group?”

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