The most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S. among men is prostate cancer; for women, it’s breast cancer, according to the U.S. federal government’s latest cancer statistics.

However, lung cancer kills more men and more women than any other type of cancer, says the report, “U.S. Cancer Statistics: 2001 Incidence and Mortality.”

The detailed 700-page report is a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

It provides statistics on cancer incidence and deaths for 2001 in 43 states, six metropolitan areas, and the District of Columbia, with numbers broken down by gender, age, and state.

Covering 92 percent of the nation’s population, the report gives a “big picture” overview of cancer in America.

Cancer Population Patterns

Several trends emerge from the data.

For instance, lung cancer is the leading cause of death for white, black, and Asian/Pacific Islander women. But among Hispanic women, breast cancer causes the most cancer deaths. In addition, cancer death rates for women are highest among blacks, according to the report.

Ethnic differences were also seen among men.

Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer for men of all races.

For white, black, and Hispanic men, prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths, followed by colorectal cancer.

However, for Asian/Pacific Islander men, colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer, followed by liver cancer.

Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among children. Kids aged 1 to 4 years have the highest incidence rate, while older children aged 15 to 19 years have the highest leukemia death rate.

Regional patterns were also noted.

The District of Columbia has the highest rates of prostate cancer incidence and death rate; Arizona has the lowest incidence of prostate cancer while Hawaii has the lowest death rate for prostate cancer.

Kentucky has the highest incidence rate of colorectal cancer among men and New Jersey has the highest incidence rate among women. While the District of Colombia has the highest death rates from colorectal cancer (for both men and women), Utah has the lowest death rates of colorectal cancer.

Washington state has the highest incidence rate of female breast cancer, and Texas has the lowest. The District of Columbia has the highest female breast cancer death rate; South Dakota has the lowest.

Kentucky has the highest death rate of lung cancer among men. West Virginia has the highest lung cancer death rate among women. Utah has the lowest lung cancer incidence rate among men and women.

Applying the Data

The report has a higher purpose beyond accumulating reams of statistics. Its information will help target cancer outreach efforts, says U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, in a news release.

“Having highly accurate data about which cancers most commonly strike specific groups, such as the Hispanic population, means we can better meet prevention, care, and treatment needs,” says Thompson.

“Breaking out data by racial and ethnic populations, we have a broader and more accurate view of our nation’s cancer problem, how it affects our diverse population, and how to intervene to combat this disease.”

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCES: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Cancer Institute/North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, “U.S. Cancer Statistics: 2001 Incidence and Mortality.” News release, National Cancer Institute.