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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2011 Oct;20(10):1996-2005. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-11-0729.

Cancer survivors: a booming population.

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Office of Cancer Survivorship, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.



In this first article of what is planned to be an annual series, we examine the history of cancer prevalence reporting and the role that these annual figures play in guiding the direction of cancer control research, and specifically the science of cancer survivorship. For this inaugural year, we focus on the confluence of the growing number of survivors and population aging, and the impact these combined trends will have on cancer survivorship in the future.


State or metro area-level cancer incidence and prevalence data were collected from 9 registries via the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. The complete prevalence method was used to estimate prevalence for 2008 and the Prevalence, Incidence Approach Model method was used to project prevalence data through 2020, assuming flat cancer incidence and survival trends but dynamic U.S. population projections.


As of January 2008, the number of cancer survivors is estimated at 11.9 million. Approximately 60% of cancer survivors are age 65 or older, and by the year 2020, it is estimated that 63% of cancer survivors will be age 65 or older.


Improved survival and population aging converge to generate a booming population of older adult cancer survivors, many of whom have multiple complex health conditions and unique survivorship needs. This demographic shift has important implications for future health care needs and costs of the U.S. population.


The findings provide information critical for guiding cancer prevention and control research and service provision.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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