Cancer Facts, About Women

Last Editorial Review: 12/19/2002
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Cancer is the second leading killer of American women (heart disease is the number one killer). Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells which tend to grow in an uncontrolled way, and sometimes spread (metastasize). For more information, see the cancer article of

  • Lung Cancer -- Since 1987, lung cancer has been the top cancer killer among American women, with an estimated 66,000 deaths in 1999. Over the past 10 years, the mortality rate from lung cancer has declined in men but has continued to rise in women. These alarming trends are under recognized by women and are due almost exclusively to increased rates of cigarette smoking in women.
It was estimated there would be 164,100 new cases in 2000, accounting for 14% of cancer diagnoses. Since 1987, more women have died each year of lung cancer than breast cancer, which, for over 40 years, was the major cause of cancer death in women.
  • Colorectal Cancer -- Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. Although many cases are preventable with regular screening, regular exercise, and a diet low in fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, colorectal cancer was expected to claim the lives of 28,800 women in 1999.

  • Cervical Cancer strikes up to two of every 100 women. With the advent of the Pap smear, the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer has improved dramatically. Both the incidence and death rates from this disease have declined by 40 percent since the early 1970s.

  • Endometrial (uterine or womb) Cancer -- It was estimated that in the year 2000, 36,100 cases of cancer of the uterus would be diagnosed and an estimated 6,500 deaths would result. Incidence rates for endometrial cancer are higher among white women (22.4 per 100,000) than among black women (15.3 per 100,000).

  • Ovarian Cancer is the most deadly of all the cancers of the female reproductive system. Symptoms often appear only in the very advanced stages of the disease. In 1999, there were nearly 25,200 ovarian cancer cases with over 14,500 deaths. It was estimated that in 2000 there would be 23,100 new cases in the United States and, an estimated 14,000 deaths.
For more information, please visit the Cancer Center.

Portions of the above information has been provided with the kind permission of The National Women's Health Information Center

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