NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 7, 2009

Fueled by an aging, more diverse population, the number of new cancer cases in the United States will increase by 45 percent over the next 20 years, according to a study by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Other findings:

  • There will be 2.3 million cases of cancer in 2030, up from 1.6 million in 2010.
  • The number of cases among minorities will double and among seniors will increase 67 percent.

It's a surge the health care system doesn't appear ready to accommodate, given the shortage of oncologists previously projected, says Dr. Ben Smith, a professor of radiation oncology and the study's lead author. 

The study is the first to project specific long-term cancer incidence, which was expected to increase as U.S. baby boomers hit their senior years because cancer is a disease of aging.

The projection follows modest declines in the number of cancer deaths in recent years.  Smith says sustaining that trend will be difficult, given the changing population.

  • The study projects the largest increase among racial or ethnic groups will hit Hispanics, whose cancer cases will go up 142 percent; Anglos will rise 31 percent.
  • The 45 percent projection compares to an overall expected population growth of 19 percent.
  • By 2030, the number of older adults diagnosed with cancer will be the same as the total number of Americans currently diagnosed with cancer.

Smith noted with alarm that some of the types of cancer expected to increase, such as liver, stomach and pancreas, still have tremendously high mortality rates.

The study projects the increase to be 64 percent in blacks, 76 percent in American Indians and Native Alaskans, 101 percent in multiracial people and 132 percent in Asian-Pacific Islanders.

Smith said those numbers are particularly worrisome because an abundance of data shows minorities receive suboptimal care and called for more inclusive clinical trials and better prevention strategies.

To conduct the study, Smith's team used Census Bureau statistics and the National Cancer Institute's registry of cancer cases.  They modeled immigration patterns and birth and death rates and assumed cancer rates will remain the same.

Source: Todd Ackerman, "Study predicts 45 percent more cancer cases by 2030," Houston Chronicle, May 6, 2009.


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