STATUS > HEALTH INDICATORS
In 2005, it is estimated that 275,000 females will die
of cancer. Of these, it is estimated that 27 percent will be due
to lung/ bronchus cancer, 15 percent due to breast cancer, and 10
percent due to colon and rectal cancer.1 Lung and bronchus
cancer, the leading cause of cancer death among women, is most prevalent
among Black and White women. The rate of lung and bronchus cancer
among Black women (averaged over the 5 years from 1997-2001) was
54.5 cases per 100,000 females, and the rate among White women was
51.3 per 100,000 females. Rates among other racial and ethnic groups
were approximately half of those for Black and White women: 28.5
cases per 100,000 Asian/Pacific Islander women, 23.9 per 100,000
Hispanic women, and 23.4 per 100,000 American Indian/Alaska Native
While lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, breast cancer
is the most prevalent form of cancer among women. Over the period
1997-2001, rates of breast cancer were highest among White women,
with a rate of 141.7 cases diagnosed per 100,000 females, followed
by Black women, with a rate of 119.9 cases per 100,000 females.
The rate of breast cancer among Asian/Pacific Islander women was
96.8 cases per 100,000, and Hispanic women had a rate of 89.6 cases
per 100,000. The rate of breast cancer among American Indian/Alaska
Native women, who had a rate of 54.2 cases per 100,000 females,
was the lowest.
Rates of colon and rectal cancer appear to vary less dramatically
across racial and ethnic groups. The highest rates were reported
among Black women (56.5 cases per 100,000 females), followed by
White women (45.9 cases per 100,000). Among the other three racial/ethnic
groups, rates were approximately even: 38.6 cases per 100,000 Asian/Pacific
Islander females, 32.7 per 100,000 American Indian/ Alaska Native
women, and 32.5 per 100,000 Hispanic females.
Survival rates among women vary for each type of cancer. Of the
most common types of cancer, lung and bronchus cancer has the lowest
survival rate (17.2 percent), followed by colon and rectal cancer
(63.1 percent) and breast cancer (87.7 percent).While the specific
causes of cancer have not yet been identified, it appears to involve
a combination of environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle by achieving optimal weight, exercising
regularly, avoiding tobacco, eating nutritiously and reducing sun
exposure may significantly reduce the risk of cancer.2
In addition, regular cancer screenings specific to women are recommended.
Pap smears are recommended after sexual activity begins, or at the
age of 21, whichever comes first, to screen for cervical cancer.
Mammograms are recommended for women aged 40 years and older to
screen for breast cancer and, for persons aged 50 and older, fecal
occult blood testing and sigmoidoscopy are recommended to screen
for colorectal cancer.3 A recent study has found that
breastfeeding may also reduce the risk for premenopausal breast
cancer and ovarian cancer.4
1American Cancer Society. Cancer facts & figures
2005. Atlanta: The Society; 2005.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National
Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Preventing
and controlling cancer: the nation’s second leading cause
of death 2004. February 2004.
3 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Guide to clinical
preventive services. March 2004. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/uspstfix.htm
4 Labbok MH. Effects of breastfeeding on the mother.
Pediatric Clinics of North America 2001; 48(1):143-157.