What are the deadliest cancers? Everything you need to know

What are the deadliest cancers: Cancer is a disease that occurs due to the uncontrolled growth and division of abnormal cells in the body. These abnormal cells can invade and destroy healthy tissues and organs, leading to serious health problems and, in some cases, death. While there are many types of cancer, some are more deadly than others.

What are the deadliest cancers?

A thorough and accurate understanding of cancer epidemiology provides important information about the possible causes and demographic trends of these diseases, thereby enabling the establishment of timely and appropriate public health interventions to develop effective strategies for prevention, screening and diagnosis.

As cancer epidemiology still needs high-quality information to establish credible public health policy worldwide, in this brief report we provide a brief overview of the cancer epidemiology data currently collected from databases of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Cancer Society (ACS) to provide up-to-date information.

Lung Cancer

Stomach Cancer

Cancer Symptoms

At Global level

Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, with an estimated 10 million deaths attributed to cancer in 2020 alone. The burden of cancer varies widely by region and country and is influenced by a variety of factors including genetics, lifestyle, environmental exposures, and access to healthcare.

In terms of the global distribution of cancer, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that lung cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide, followed by breast cancer and colorectal cancer. However, the incidence and mortality rates for specific types of cancer vary widely by region.

During the average living years of human life, there is a 20.2% risk of developing cancer. According to the 2018 stats, there were 18 million active cases, among these, 2.09 million cases were of lung cancer, 1.28 million cases were of prostate cancer, and 2.09 were of breast cancer. The sex-specific ratio of cancer among men and women is more than 1% for all cancers. 

As per the concern for mortality rate, cancer is the second global cause of death after coronary heart disease (CHD). Prostate and thyroid cancer have the best survival rate of 5 years after treatment, i.e., 100%, while cancers such as the esophagus, liver and pancreas have the worst prognosis i.e., approx. 20% for 5 years.

What are the deadliest cancers? Everything you need to know

Global incidences of cancer

According to the WHO report and GLOBOCON 2018 report, the incidence of cancer globally is given below in table no. 1 which shows that the most prevalent cancer globally is lung cancer (2.094 million), colon (1.097 million), and stomach (1.034) among both men and women. If sex-specific malignancy is concerned, then breast cancer is the deadliest among women having 2.088 million incidences and prostate cancer among males having 1.276 million cases.

Except for thyroid men are at more risk of getting cancer than women i.e., 22.4% in men and 18.2% in women. Although the highest risk for developing cancer between the ages of 0-74 years is lung cancer (3.80%), colorectal cancer (2.71%), and prostate cancer (3.73%) among men. Among women, it is breast cancer (5.03%), colorectal and lung cancer (1.77% each), and cervix uteri (1.36%) has the deadliest.

S.No.CancerIncidence in Millions (Men)Incidence in Millions (Women)TotalIncidence in Millions (Men)
5Stomach0.6840.3501. 0341.95
9Cervix uteri0.5700.570
12Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma0.2850.2250.5100.27
 All cancers5.3864.1699.5551.29
Table 1: Global cancer incidence, according to WHO, GLOBOCAN, 2018 report.

The Mortality rate of cancer

The mortality rate and the frequency rate of cancer are not the same, as there are survivors after the cancer treatment making these figures less than that of the incidence. The death rate is calculated as the ratio between the active cases and the mortality of cancer patients. Table no. 2 shows that there is obviously a higher death rate for certain cancers than others.

The highest mortality rate is for patients with lung, liver, and stomach cancer. In males, along with the above three cancers prostate cancer is the fifth deadliest cancer, whereas, in females, breast cancer is the deadliest, having to cause more deaths. Particularly, colon and rectal cancers, combined are the cause for the second highest reason for cancer both in men and women.

S.No.CancerIncidence in Millions (Men)Incidence in Millions (Women)TotalRatio
9Cervix uteri0.3110.311
12Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma0.1460.1030.2491.42
 All cancers5.3864.1699.5551.29
Table 2: Global mortality rate due to cancer according to WHO, GLOBOCAN, 2018 report.

In high-income countries, lung, breast, and colorectal cancers are the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer, while in other countries, the most usually identified cancers are cervical, liver, and stomach cancers. This difference is largely due to variations in risk factors, such as smoking rates, alcohol consumption, and infectious agents, as well as differences in access to screening and early detection programs.

Duodenal Cancer

Chemotherapy Side Effects

At National level

According to the national cancer mortality data in India from 2000 to 2019 from the global health observatory, India has approx. 64 per one lakh age-standardized mortality rate (ASMR). Among these, men account for 65.4 and women account for 61.0 ASMR for cancer respectively. Acc. To the same report, 76.3% of deaths occurred due to ten deadly cancers in India. Table no. 3 shows the mortality rate in India due to cancer among men and female, along with the ratio between both.

Of all the cancers, deaths due to mouth and oropharynx cancer are the highest, i.e., 15.6%. The second is the stomach with 10.6%, followed by lung, breast and colorectal being 9.6%, 9%, and 8% respectively. Among all thyroid and gallbladder cancers are the deadliest having a mortality rate of just 0.6% each. However, the mortality rate differs according to the site and stage of infection among both men and women. The report further illustrated that the cancer mortality trends are increased for the cancers of the lung, breast, colorectum cancer, and lymphoma cancer.

S.No.CancerIncidence in Millions (Men)Incidence in Millions (Women)TotalRatio
4Colon and Rectum504,644520,65410,25,2980.96
5Gallbladder cancer251,086251,0895,02,1750.9
7Brain and nervous system 230,946161,0253,91,9711.4
9Cervix uteri753,2547,53,254
 All cancers32,44,61241,55,20173,99,8131.28
Table 3: the national cancer mortality data in India from 2000 to 2019, Acc. to Global Health Observatory (GHO), a branch of WHO.


Since there are limited sources available for cancer stats in India, but still this above data reflects that the mortality rate due to cancer is high in women as compared to men and is slightly increased in both sexes over the years compared to previous data. Still, the variation in the mortal trends and poor survival rate even after treatment suggests, that there is a change required in the healthcare system, cancer awareness, lifestyle and the diet people are relying on nowadays.

In India, 70% of the cases are diagnosed at advanced stages because of cancer awareness and the high cost of medical facilities. Further, the mortality rate is high in urban areas than in rural, especially related to lifestyle cancer, whereas infection-related cancer mortality is higher in rural areas than in urban. In conclusion, high-quality cancer monitoring, and treatment strategy is required to combat the elevating cancer case in India.


What is the purpose of cancer epidemiology?

The main purpose of cancer epidemiology (CE) is to decrease the cancer load via the identification and confirmation of natural factors distressing carcinogenesis and contributing to disease development, advancement, and effect.

What does cancer epidemiology (CE) depict us?

At the ground level, cancer epidemiology tells us about the no. of active cases (incidences) as a whole population and according to the demographic details as well. Along with this it also helps us to tell the mortality rate due to cancer (deaths occur due to cancer), and prognosis (how many per cent of patients survive up to 5 years after the treatment).

What is the most common cause of cancer in India?

We, in urban India the most common type of cancers is those derived from the lifestyle issues, such as smoking, drinking, obesity, etc. And in rural India, the most common cancers are those derived due to infections and lack of hygiene and awareness.  Cancer prevalent in both urban and rural areas is lung cancer, breast, bronchus, prostate, etc.

How to avoid the risk of getting cancer?

There are some simple and small steps such as eating healthy, eating more vegetables and fruits than fast food, doing regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, quit smoking and also limit the amount of alcohol, always covering your skin with sunscreen and protecting it from sun rays, etc., can be done to prevent yourself from developing cancer.

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