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

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It is estimated that 739,940 new cancer cases will be diagnosed among females, and more than 270,000 females will die of cancer in 2010. Lung and bronchus cancer is expected to be the leading cause of cancer death among females, accounting for 71,080 deaths, or 26 percent of all cancer deaths, followed by breast cancer, which will be responsible for 39,840, 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 56,670 deaths combined.

Due to the varying survival rates for different types of cancer, the most common causes of death from cancer are not always the most common types of cancer. For instance, although lung and bronchus cancer causes the greatest number of deaths, breast cancer is more commonly diagnosed among females. In 2006, invasive breast cancer occurred among 119.3 per 100,000 females, whereas lung and bronchus cancer occurred in only 55.0 per 100,000. Other types of cancer that are more likely to be diagnosed but are not among the top 10 causes of cancer deaths include thyroid, melanoma, and cervical cancer, occurring in 16.0, 15.0, and 8.0 per 100,000 females, respectively.

Cervical cancer incidence varies by race and ethnicity; in 2006, Hispanic and Black females were most likely to have been diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer (11.6 and 9.9 per 100,000, respectively), compared to 7.7 per 100,000 White females.

Regular screening can help prevent or detect cervical cancer in the early stages. Cervical cancer screenings are recommended at least every 3 years beginning within 3 years of sexual activity or by age 21. A vaccine for genital human papillomavirus (HPV; 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 There is also a vaccine available for adolescent and young men to protect against HPV.

Despite preventive measures, cervical cancer incidence varies by race and ethnicity. In 2006, Hispanic and Black females were most likely to have been diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer (11.6 and 9.9 per 100,000, respectively), compared to 7.7 per 100,000 White females.

In 2000–2007, Black females were more likely than women of other races and ethnicities to be diagnosed with colon and rectum cancer (54.2 per 100,000). Overall, Black and non-Hispanic White women aged 65 years and older were most likely to have developed this type of cancer (274.5 and 240.5 per 100,000 women, respectively), followed by American Indian/Alaska Native women of the same age group (209.0 per 100,000). Among women of all ages, Hispanic women were least likely to have colon and rectum cancer.

Cancer survival rates vary depending on how early the cancer is discovered. For females diagnosed with lung and bronchus cancer in 1999– 2006, 18.3 percent could expect to live 5 years or more; however, this varied by race and the stage of the cancer. White women were more likely than Black women to live at least 5 years when the cancer was diagnosed in the localized stage (57.8 versus 49.0 percent, respectively). Fewer than 27 percent of White females and 22.3 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 4.2 percent of White females and 3.4 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/hpv, accessed 07/23/10.
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.  Preventative Medicine.  2008; Dec [online Epub].

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