Cancer in Numbers

What Navigators Should Know About the Perplexing Revelation From the American Cancer Society’s Annual Report

March 2024 Vol 15, No 3 —March 14, 2024
Sharon S. Gentry, MSN, RN, HON-ONN-CG, AOCN, CBCN
Program Director, AONN+

Each year the American Cancer Society releases a cancer statistics report that reveals the most current information about cancer with projections of cases and deaths expected in the United States. It is perplexing in the 2024 report that the incidence is decreasing in adults over the age of 65 years and increasing in younger people.1

Overall, the national cancer death rate has been reduced by one-third since 1991, resulting in more than 4 million fewer deaths, even though getting older is a significant risk factor for developing cancer.2 As the size of this age group has increased, this good news scenario is supported by improved screening, a sharp drop in smoking, and more effective treatments against select cancers. More directly, this shift among older adults is supported by a decrease in prostate and smoking-related cancers among older men.

A predicted milestone from this report is the expectation that new cases of cancer will cross the 2 million mark, which translates to 5500 cancer diagnoses per day. This is fueled by a rise in diagnoses of 6 of the most common cancers—breast, prostate, endometrial, pancreatic, kidney, and melanoma, as well as by people younger than 50 years experiencing an increase in overall cancer incidence. Reinforcing the increase in the younger population is the rise in colorectal cancer diagnoses among people younger than 50 years, the increase in cervical cancer in women aged 30 to 44 years, and the rising prevalence of breast cancer in young women. Other factors, such as consumption of red meat or ultraprocessed food, medication and vitamin use, and obesity, are being reviewed as contributing to this shift.3

Key takeaways are to encourage consistent screening for all ages, with a focus on those younger than 50 years; to continue cancer prevention through healthy dietary practices, smoking cessation, and limited alcohol use; and to encourage clinical trial participation for improved cancer treatment.

That's My Take.


  1. Siegel RL, Giaquinto AN, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2024. CA Cancer J Clin. 2024;74:12-49.
  2. Abbott B. U.S. cancer death rate has dropped by a third since 1991. The Wall Street Journal.
  3. Clemente-Suárez VJ, Beltrán-Velasco AI, Redondo-Flórez L, et al. Global impacts of Western diet and its effects on metabolism and health: a narrative review. Nutrients. 2023;15:2749.
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Last modified: March 20, 2024

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