Cancer in American In modern society cancer is the disease most feared by the majority of people throughout the world, supplanting the “white death,” or tuberculosis, of the last century; the “black death,” or bubonic plague, of the Middle Ages; and the leprosy of biblical times. Cancer has been known and described throughout history, although its greater prevalence today is undoubtedly due to the conquest by medical science of most infectious diseases and to the increased life span of humans. The study of cancer is known as the field of ONCOLOGY. In the mid-1980s nearly 6 million new cancer cases and more than 4 million deaths from cancer were being reported world-wide each year. The most common fatal form was stomach cancer (prevalent in Asia), but lung cancer has risen rapidly, because of the spread of cigarette smoking in developing countries, to become the leading fatal cancer in the world today.
Also on the increase is the third-greatest killer, breast cancer, particularly in China and Japan. The fourth on the list is colon or rectum cancer, a disease that mainly strikes the elderly. In the United States in the mid-1980s, more than one-fifth of all deaths were caused by cancer; only the cardiovascular diseases accounted for a higher percentage. In 1990 the American Cancer Society predicted that about 30 percent of Americans will eventually develop some form of the disease. In the United States skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in both men and women.
Lung cancer, however, causes the most deaths in both men and women. LEUKEMIA, or cancer of the blood, is the most common type seen in children. An increasing incidence of cancer has been clearly observable over the past few decades, due in part to improved cancer screening programs, to the increasing number of older persons in the population, and also to the large number of tobacco smokers–particularly among women. Some researchers have estimated that if Americans stopped smoking cigarettes, lung-cancer deaths could virtually be eliminated within 20 years.