The Top 5 Types of Cancer that Cause the Most Deaths Worldwide

  Type of Cancer Mortality Rate
(per 100,000 persons)
% of Total Cancer Deaths
Lung cancer 1,378,415 deaths 19.4 18.2%
Stomach cancer 738,069 deaths 10.3 9.7%
Liver cancer 695,483 deaths 10.0 9.2%
Colorectum cancer 608,644 deaths 8.2 8.0%
Breast cancer 458,367 deaths 12.5 6.1%
Sources:  GLOBOCAN 2008, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. (last accessed by top 5 of Anything: Dec, 2010).
List Notes: List is ranked by number of deaths. Data is estimated for the year 2008 in 182 countries worldwide. Cancer rate is the number of female deaths per 100,000 persons per year and is age-standardized. An age-standardized rate is the rate that a population would have if it had a standard age structure. Standardization is necessary when comparing several populations that differ with respect to age because age has a powerful influence on the risk of cancer. Percentage of total is percentage of global cancer deaths. Data excludes non-melanoma skin cancer.
  1. Worldwide, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in men and the second leading cause of cancer death in women, with about 975,000 men and 376,000 women were projected to die from lung cancer in 2007. An estimated 1.5 million new cases of lung cancer are expected in 2007, accounting for about 12% of total cancer diagnoses. In men, the highest lung cancer incidence rates are in Eastern Europe, North America, and Russia, and the lowest rates are in Africa, Melanesia, and South Central Asia. In women, the highest lung cancer rates are found in North America, the Scandinavian countries, and China. Lung cancer rates in Chinese women (19.0 cases per 100,000 women) are higher than the rates among women in many European countries, including Germany and France ( fewer than 13.0 cases per 100,000 women), despite their lower prevalence of smoking. This is thought to reflect indoor air pollution from unventilated coal-fueled stoves and from cooking fumes.(a.)
  2. Nearly 70% of new Stomach cancer cases will occur in developing countries. Generally, stomach cancer rates are about twice as high in men as in women. Stomach cancer incidence rates vary widely across countries, ranging from 0.6 cases per 100,000 in Cameroon to 69.6 in Korea for men and from 0.6 in Gabon to 30.6 in Peru for women. In general, the highest incidence rates are found in Asia and parts of South America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Colombia) in both men and women and in some African countries (Mali, Congo, and Rwanda) in women. In contrast, the lowest rates are reported for North America and in most parts of Africa in both men and women. A steady decline in stomach cancer rates has been observed in most developed countries over the past 50 years, with rates dropping by more than 80%. Similar decreasing trends have been noted in some developing countries, including China, though the decrease is smaller and began later. Factors that have contributed to these remarkable decreases are thought to include increased availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, decreased reliance on salted and preserved foods, reduction in chronic H. pylori infection due to sanitation and antibiotics, and increased screening. (a.)
  3. Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in men and the eighth in women. More than 80% of these cases occur in developing countries, with China alone accounting for over 55% of the total. Rates are more than twice as high in men as in women. Liver cancer rates are the highest in West and Central Africa and in Asia. In contrast, incidence rates are lowest in developed countries, with the exception of Japan. Liver cancer incidence is increasing in areas with historically low rates, including Oceania, Central Europe, and North America, and it is decreasing in historically high-rate areas, including China, Singapore, and India. Reasons for these trends are not entirely clear, but are thought to reflect increased prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection. (a.)
  4. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men and the third in women. Worldwide, nearly 1.2 million cases of colorectal cancer are expected to occur in 2007. The highest incidence rates are found in Japan, North America, parts of Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. Rates are low in Africa and South-East Asia. Rates are substantially higher in men than in women. (a.)
  5. Worldwide, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. Female breast cancer incidence rates for 2002 vary internationally by more than 25-fold, ranging from 3.9 cases per 100,000 in Mozambique to 101.1 in the United States. This in part reflects low screening rates and incomplete reporting in developing countries. North America, Australia, and Northern and Western Europe have the highest incidence of breast cancer; intermediate levels are reported in Eastern Europe. Large parts of Africa and Asia have the lowest rates. Over the past 25 years, breast cancer incidence rates have risen approximately 30% in westernized countries because of changes in reproductive patterns and more recently because of increased screening. However, incidence rates in the United States decreased from 2001-2004, in part due to reductions in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use and mammography utilization. Breast cancer incidence rates have been rising in many developing countries, including Asian and African countries. Reasons for these trends are not completely understood but likely reflect changes in reproductive patterns, nutrition, physical inactivity, and some breast cancer screening activity. Although breast cancer incidence is on the rise worldwide, breast cancer mortality over the past 25 years has been stable or decreasing in some countries. Mortality rate reductions in developed countries have been attributed to early detection through mammography and to improved treatment. (a.)
Top 5 facts sources:
  1. The American Cancer Society. (2007). "Global Cancer Facts & Figures 2007" (pages 1-20). Retrieved December 9th, 2010.
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