U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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It is estimated that 713,220 new cancer cases will be diagnosed among females, and more than 269,000 females will die of cancer in 2009. Lung and bronchus cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death among females, accounting for 70,490 deaths, or 26 percent of all cancer deaths, followed by breast cancer, which will be responsible for 40,170, or 15 percent of deaths. Colon and rectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and ovarian cancer will also be significant causes of cancer deaths among females, accounting for an additional 56,490 deaths combined.

Due to the varying survival rates for different types of cancer, the most common causes of cancer death are not always the most common types of cancer. For instance, although lung and bronchus cancers cause the greatest number of deaths, breast cancer is more commonly diagnosed among women. In 2005, invasive breast cancer occurred among 117.7 per 100,000 women whereas lung and bronchus cancers occurred in only 55.2 per 100,000 women. Other types of cancer that are commonly diagnosed among females but are not among the top 10 causes of cancer deaths include melanoma, thyroid, and cervical cancer, occurring in 15.1, 14.9, and 8.1 per 100,000 women, respectively.

Cervical cancer incidence varies by race and ethnicity; in 2005, Hispanic and Black females were most likely to have been diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer (12.4 and 10.3 per 100,000, respectively), compared to 7.7 per 100,000 White females. Cervical cancer screenings are recommended at least every 3 years beginning within 3 years of sexual activity or by age 21. In addition, a vaccine for genital human papillomavirus (the leading cause of cervical cancer) was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and is recommended for adolescents and young women aged 9–26 years.1 In 2006–2007, 10 percent of women aged 18–26 years had been vaccinated for HPV (data not shown).2

In 2000–2005, non-Hispanic White females were more likely than women of other races and ethnicities to be diagnosed with endometrial or uterine cancer (25.4 per 100,000). Overall, non-Hispanic White and Black women aged 65 years and older were most likely to have this type of cancer (92.1 and 84.3 per 100,000 women, respectively), followed by Hispanic women of the same age group (57.7 per 100,000). Among 45- to 64-year-olds, American Indian/Alaska Native women were least likely to have endometrial or uterine cancer (29.9 per 100,000), while Black women were least likely among those aged 20–44 years (4.1 per 100,000).

Survival rates for ovarian cancer vary depending on how early it is discovered. For females diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1996–2004, 45.6 percent could expect to live 5 years or more; however, this varied by race and the stage of the cancer. Black women were slightly more likely than White women to live at least 5 years when the cancer was diagnosed in the localized stage (94.3 versus 92.1 percent, respectively). Comparatively, 71.3 percent of White females and 50.7 percent of Black females could expect the same when the cancer is in the regional stage (spread beyond the primary site). Among those whose cancer is diagnosed at the distant stage (spread to distant organs or lymph nodes), only 30.7 percent of White females and 22.6 percent of Black females could expect to live 5 more years.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases: HPV and HPV Vaccine - Information for Healthcare Providers. Aug 2006. http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/default.htm, accessed 03/03/09.
2 Jain N, Euler GL, Shefer A, Lu P, Yankey D, Markowitz L. Human papillomavirus (HPV) awareness and vaccination initiation among women in the United States, National Immunization Survey-Adult 2007. Preventive Medicine. 2008; Dec [online Epub].

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