5 Fast Facts About Cancer

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • While many types of cancer are seeing declines in the number of cases diagnosed, cancer overall continues to be all too common. But the good news is experts say many of us can take active, everyday steps to reduce our individual cancer risk. With cancer, knowledge is power, so take note of these five cancer facts that may help you fight back.

  • 1
    Marriage could affect how you fight cancer.
    Senior couple

    Married cancer patients have a more favorable survival rate than unmarried patients, according to a 2016 study by the Cancer Prevention Institute of California. Researchers believe this is because married men and women have a stronger social support system than single patients. The study also said separate of a specific cancer diagnosis, married patients were more likely to practice general health habits that lower their risk, such as exercise, a nutritious diet, and regular doctor checkups.

  • 2
    You can lower your cancer risk in your sleep.

    To the (long) list of health benefits we get from sleep, researchers have added one more: reduced cancer risk. A 2011 study at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that people who averaged less than six hours of sleep a night had an almost 50% higher risk of colorectal adenomas, a precursor to colon cancer. The study equated sleep deprivation to having a first-degree relative with a history of colon cancer, which puts a person at significant risk for contracting the disease.

  • 3
    Excess weight reduces cancer survival rates.
    Man on scale

    Being overweight poses a double whammy when it comes to cancer. Not only do extra pounds increase your risk for the disease, it can affect survival rates for those who have it. Postmenopausal women with breast cancer who are inactive are more likely to die from the disease than women who are more physically active, according to the American Cancer Society. On the bright side, recent research shows women can decrease their risk for breast cancer through regular physical activity (both moderate and vigorous) and by maintaining a healthy body weight.

  • 4
    Skin cancer is the most common cancer.
    Doctor examining mole on back of woman

    Before you head to the beach, keep in mind skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. This includes melanoma and the most common types, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer. While exact numbers are difficult to calculate due to how non-melanoma skin cancers are reported, the American Cancer Society estimated that in 2012, doctors diagnosed 5.4 million cases of skin cancer. The good news? Skin cancer can often be cured when detected and treated early.

  • 5
    Indoor tanning is worse than smoking for cancer risk.

    Neither one is good for you, but according to a 2014 study released by the journal JAMA Dermatology, the number of skin cancer cases resulting from indoor tanning is estimated to be higher than the number of lung cancer cases resulting from smoking. More than 419,000 skin cancer cases are attributed to indoor tanning each year, far surpassing the 254,000 total new cases of lung cancer expected to be diagnosed in 2021. The safest route: Steer clear of both tobacco and the tanning bed for a double dose of cancer prevention.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 6
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. New study suggests why cancer survival is greater for married patients. Cancer Prevention Institute of California. http://www.cpic.org/print/news-media/press-releases/2016/April-11-marriage.aspx
  2. Thompson CL, Larkin EK, Patel S, Berger NA, Redline S, Li L; Short duration of sleep increases risk of colorectal adenoma. Cancer, 2011; 117 (4): 841 DOI: 10.1002/cncr.25507
  3.  Cancer Facts & Figures 2012. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-fac...
  4. Cancer Facts & Figures. 2021American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/annual-cancer-facts-and-figures/2021/cancer-facts-and-figures-2021.pdf
  5. Study finds more skin cancer cases due to indoor tanning than lung cancer cases due to smoking. The Skin Cancer Foundation. http://www.skincancer.org/news/tanning/international