National Cancer Institute  U.S. National Institutes of Health

Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2011/2012 Update

Skip to content
Progress Report  Home

Progress Report
Tools and Resources
  Data Sources (PDF)
  Fact Sheet (PDF)
 Generate custom report
 Print this page
  Quick Tutorial
  Report Archive

In the Report
Summary Tables
Early Detection
Life After Cancer
End of Life


The nation's investment in cancer research is making a difference.

  • The U.S. cancer death rate first began to drop in 1992.
  • The incidence rates of all new cancers combined has been falling since 1999, after adjusting for delayed reporting.
  • Many people who have had cancer live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than was possible years ago.

However, cancer remains a major public health problem that profoundly affects the more than 1 million people diagnosed each year, as well as their families and friends.

  • The incidence rates of melanoma of the skin, kidney cancer, thyroid cancer, and cancer of the liver are rising, along with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, childhood cancers, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, testicular cancer, and esophageal cancer. The burden of some types of cancer weighs more heavily on some groups than on others. The rates of both new cases and deaths from cancer vary by socioeconomic status, sex, and racial and ethnic group.
  • The economic burden of cancer also is taking its toll. As our nation's population grows and ages, more people are expected to get cancer. Meanwhile, the costs of cancer diagnosis and treatment are on the rise. The combination of these trends will accelerate the national costs of cancer treatment.

Why a Progress Report Is Needed

Since the signing of the National Cancer Act in 1971, our country has vigorously fought the devastating effects of cancer. Now it is time to see how far we have come. The Cancer Trends Progress Report—2011/2012 Update is the sixth in a series of reports that describe the nation's progress against cancer through research and related efforts. The report is based on the most recent data at the time of analysis from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal agencies, professional groups, and cancer researchers.

The Cancer Trends Progress Report was designed to help the nation review past efforts and plan future ones. The public can use the report to better understand the nature and results of strategies to fight cancer. Researchers, clinicians, and public health providers can focus on the gaps and opportunities identified in the report, paving the way for future progress against cancer. Policymakers can use the report to evaluate our progress relative to our investment in cancer research discovery, program development, and service delivery.

What's in the Report

The Cancer Trends Progress Report—2011/2012 Update includes key measures of progress along the cancer control continuum.

  • Prevention. The measures in this section cover behaviors that can help people prevent cancer, the most important of which is avoiding tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure. This section also addresses red meat intake and exposure to sun and chemicals in the environment.
  • Early Detection. Screening tests provide ways to find cancers early, when there is the best chance for cure. This section describes the proportion and types of people using recommended screening tests.
  • Diagnosis. We can learn much about our progress against cancer by looking at the rates of new cancer cases (incidence) and cancers diagnosed at late stages. This section reviews both these areas.
  • Treatment. This section explains the current status of treatment measures and describes the kinds of measures that are emerging from ongoing research and monitoring activities.
  • Life After Cancer. This section addresses trends in the proportion of cancer patients who are alive 5 years after their diagnosis, the costs of cancer care, and smoking behavior among survivors.
  • End of Life. This section includes the rate of deaths (mortality) from cancer and the estimated number of years of life lost (person-years of life lost) as a result of cancer.

Where possible, the Cancer Trends Progress Report shows changes in these data over time (trends). This report shows whether the trends are "rising" or "falling" using standard definitions and tests of the statistical significance of the trends (see Methodology for Characterizing Trends). For some measures, differences in the cancer burden among various U.S. racial and ethnic groups, income groups, and groups by level of educational attainment, are also presented.

Most of the measures for age-adjusted cancer death rates in this report are identical to those presented in Healthy People 2020, a comprehensive set of 10-year health objectives for the nation sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This enabled us to show the nation's progress relative to cancer-related targets for Healthy People 2020.

How Data Were Selected

In selecting measures that would be meaningful to readers of this report, we relied largely on long-term national (rather than state or local) data collection efforts. State and local data are available online at State Cancer Profiles ( The report includes more measures for prevention than for other segments of the continuum, because of the potential of prevention measures to positively impact national progress to reduce the burden of cancer. Some measures such as "quality of life" were not included in this report, even though they are important in assessing the cancer burden, because there is no current consensus on how best to track these measures on a population basis over time.

The data in the Cancer Trends Progress Report—2011/2012 Update come from a variety of systems and surveys with different collection techniques and reporting times, so time periods may vary. The starting point or baseline year against which to measure how well the nation is progressing toward the Healthy People 2020 targets depends on the data available. For example, data for most Diagnosis, Life After Cancer, and End of Life measures are available starting in 1975, while data for most Prevention, Early Detection, and Treatment measures are available beginning in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Cancer Trends Progress Report—2011/2012 Update, National Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHS, Bethesda, MD, April 2010,

All material in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated.

National Cancer InstituteDepartment of Health and Human ServicesNational Institutes of

NIH... Turning Discovery Into Health