BETHESDA, Md--The lifetime risk of developing cancer for the US population is 44.8% for men and 39.3% for women, according to an analysis of incidence rates from the National Cancer Institute's SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results) program for 1973 to 1991.
Risks of developing cancer are higher in whites than in blacks by about 8%, said Lawrence Garfinkel, special consultant in epidemiology and statistics, American Cancer Society.
However, lifetime risks of dying of cancer show smaller differences between sexes and races. Among men, 23.4% will die of cancer, compared with 20.4% of women, and the risk of dying of cancer is the same in whites and blacks (23.6% vs 23% for white and black men, respectively, and 20.8% vs 19% for white and black women, respectively).
For men, prostate cancer, at 15.4%, tops the list of cancers most likely to develop in a lifetime, while for women, breast cancer represents the most likely cancer with a 12.3% lifetime risk (one in eight).
Other cancers with a high lifetime probability include lung and bronchus (8.5% for men and 5.2% for women) and colorectal (6.1% for men and 5.9% for women). All other cancers, except for urinary bladder cancer in men (3.3%), have a lifetime risk of under 2% for both sexes. Of those sites that can be compared, men have a higher risk of developing cancer than women at all sites, except for the pancreas, thyroid, and breast.
For both sexes, lung cancer represents the most life-threatening cancer, with risk of dying of the disease at 7.1% for men and 4.1% for women, Mr. Garfinkel said in his report in the Statistical Bulletin (Oct-Dec 1995, pp 31-37).