Risk factors, signs and treatment for the 6 most common forms of cancer in the United States - breast, prostate, lung, bladder, colorectal and skin cancer.

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6 Most Common Forms of Cancer in the United States


(NOVEMBER 2013) It comes in many shapes and sizes, but no matter how it’s served, it’s never something you want and it’s always unexpected. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Worldwide, cancer claims more than 7.6 million lives each year. Awareness can help you diagnosis early, which is often the difference between life and death.

Here are risk factors, warning signs and first steps in treatment for the six most common forms of cancer in the United States.


About 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer during their lifetime

5-Year Survival Rate: 88% for Stage 1 breast cancer. By Stage 4, survival drops to 15%.
(Find out what the stages of cancer mean.)

Risk Factors

  • Female
  • Age
  • Genetic history of breast cancer, especially from your mother
  • BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations
  • Having your first child after age 35 or never having been pregnant

Signs and Symptoms

  • Often little to no signs of breast cancer
  • Lump in the breast, which may be as small as a pea
  • Change in size or shape of the breast or nipple
  • Skin on the breast becomes dimpled, inflamed or scaly


  • Largely dependent on type and stage of cancer and patients health and age
  • Surgery –Removing the cancer, one or both breasts, or some or all of the lymph nodes
  • Radiation therapy after the cancer is removed in early stages
  • Chemotherapy if high risk of returning or cancer has spread


About 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime.

5-Year Survival Rate: 100% when cancer is confined to the prostate. Drops to 31% when spread beyond the prostate.

Risk Factors

  • Age, especially 50 or older
  • Family history
  • African-Americans have highest rate of prostate cancer
  • Diet high in fat and red meat and low in fruits and vegetables

Signs and Symptoms

  • Frequently urinating, especially at night
  • Blood in urine or seaman
  • Painful urination or ejaculation
  • Difficulty starting or stopping urinating, with a weak or interrupted stream


  • 9 out of 10 cases found early through PSA blood tests
  • Varies depending upon the complexity of the diagnosis
  • If cancer hasn’t spread, surgery or radiation are typically used
  • Hormone therapy or chemotherapy


About 1 in 14 men and women will be diagnosed with lung cancer.

5-Year Survival Rate: 52.6% when cancer is localized within the lungs. 3.5% if cancer spreads to other organs.

Risk Factors

  • Smoking causes almost nine out of 10 lung cancer diagnosis.
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Exposure to radon gas or asbestos
  • Family history of lung cancer

Signs and Symptoms

  • Often comes with no early symptoms so early diagnosis is difficult
  • Chronic coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Chest pain, wheezing, hoarseness or shortness of breath


  • Surgery in Stage 1 or if cancer hasn’t spread beyond the lung
  • Radiation therapy if surgery is refused or tumor spread to lymph nodes or trachea
  • Chemotherapy  when cancer is widespread


About 1 in 26 men will be diagnosed with bladder cancer; about 1 in 90 women will be diagnosed with bladder cancer.

5-Year Survival Rate: 80%

Risk Factors

  • Unknown but strongly associated with cigarette smoking
  • History of bladder cancer in family raises risk
  • Lots of fried meat and fat increase your risk

Signs and Symptoms

  • Frequently feeling the need to urinate
  • Blood or blood clots in your urine
  • Painful urination


  • Surgery is used in 90% of bladder cancer cases
  • Most don’t have to remove the bladder if caught early
  • Often comes back so regular treatments are needed after initial treatment


About 1 in 20 men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer during their lifetime.

5-Year Survival Rate: 74% if Stage 1 Colorectal cancer. Survival rate decreases with more advanced cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Age, especially 60 or older
  • Diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, like Crohn’s disease
  • Family history of colon cancer or personal history of breast cancer
  • African-American or eastern European descent

Signs and Symptoms

  • Diarrhea or constipation lasting more than a couple of days
  • Frequently feeling that you need to have a bowel movement
  • Bleeding in your stool
  • Abdominal pain


  • Screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50
  • Surgery most effective when cancer hasn’t spread
  • Radiation therapy when tumor is attached to another organ
  • Chemotherapy when advanced cancer or it’s spread to other parts of the body


1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at least once during their lifetime.

5-Year Survival Rate: For melanoma skin cancer, between 15%-97% depending on the stage of the cancer; death is uncommon for non-melanoma skin cancer.

Risk Factors

  • Family or personal history of skin cancer
  • Lighter skin tone that burns or freckles easily
  • Indoor tanning and prolonged exposure to sun
  • Weakened immune system form HIV/AIDS or organ transplants

Signs and Symptoms

  • Changes in your skin, including a new mole, changes in color or size of an existing mole, or a new growth on your skin
  • Scaly, bleeding or oozing from a mole or growth on your skin
  • Dark color spreading outside the perimeter of a mole


  • For non-melanoma skin cancer, removing the entire skin cancer.
  • Repeated skin self-exams are necessary as non-melanoma skin cancer typically reappears within 5 years.
  • For melanoma skin cancer, surgery is the main treatment for early stages. Radiation therapy may be needed if lymph nodes were removed.

In nearly all cases of serious medical conditions like those listed above, medical ID jewelry is an important means of conveying critical medical information in the event of an emergency.