Once viewed as death sentence, childhood cancers have seen some of the biggest increases in survival rates over the past three decades.
The 5-year survival rates for all childhood cancers combined increased from 58.1 percent in 1975–77 to 79.6 percent in 1996–2003.
Leukemia is the most common cancer in children and adolescents. It accounts for about 1 out of 3 cancers in children. Overall, however, childhood leukemia is a rare disease and will affect about 3,500 children this year.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer for men. About 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with it during his lifetime. In 2009, 192,280 new cases of prostate cancer are expected and 27,360 men will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
But survival rates continue to improve. The 5-year survival rate for prostate cancer was just 66.9 percent in 1975. In 2000, it was 99.2 percent, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Breast cancer is the No. 1 cancer experienced by women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women behind lung cancer. One in 8 will get it over the course of her lifetime. There will be an estimated 192,270 new cases of breast cancer this year and 40,170 women are expected to die from it.
Survival rates have greatly improved, however. In 1975, the survival rate was about 75 percent. In 2000, it was better than 90 percent.
Colon cancer falls under the category of colorectal cancer, which refers to cancer that develops in the colon or the rectum. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 106,100 new cases of colon cancer (52,010 in men and 54,090 in women) in 2009.
The death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 30 years. In 1975, survival rates were at 49.4 percent. In the year 2000, survival rates jumped to 66 percent. Improved screening and treatments are credited for the improved survival rate.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but it is rare in people under the age of 45. More people die from lung cancer than of colon, breast and prostate cancers combined.
The ACS estimates that 219,440 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed this year and of those, 159,390 will die.
Although lung cancer is still the deadliest of all cancers, rates have improved slightly: In 1975, survival rates were 11.9 percent. In 2000, they rose to 16.9 percent.
It's been almost 40 years since President Richard Nixon declared “War on Cancer” and the medical community appears to finally be gaining the upper hand on the deadly disease.