Men and women across the world are at a high risk for cancer. That being said, there are certain cancers which affect women more so than men. These variances are generally due to anatomical differences, but there are other factors at play. In the United States, cancer is the second leading cause of death exceeded only by heart disease. That translates to 1 in 4 American women dying from cancer.
With so many impacted by cancer, awareness is essential. To help, here is a brief look at the three cancers which cause the most deaths for women in the U.S.
Leading the way is lung and bronchus cancer. Causing more than 61,000 female deaths every year, this type of cancer is the deadliest, although not the most frequently diagnosed. Cigarette smoke is the most common cause of lung cancer followed by radon gas and secondhand smoke. However, as air quality worsens in some areas, hazardous chemicals, air particles and other environmental factors also contribute to the high rates of diagnosis. Recently, as fewer people take up smoking and improvements in treating non-small cell lung cancer have been made, the death rates have declined.
The second most deadly cancer affecting women is breast cancer at 43,250 annual deaths. Breast cancer is also the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in American women after skin cancer. It can occur at any age, but with age the risk increases. Other factors increasing a woman’s risk for breast cancer include family history, weight, not bearing any children, not breastfeeding, and using birth control, especially oral contraceptives. Cancer-causing chemicals, alcohol consumption, diet, and exercise levels also play a role. Women should know, there is no definite way to prevent breast cancer. There are, however, preventative screenings every woman should adhere to over the course of her life. These include self-exams, ctDNA testing breast cancer, mammograms and an annual exam performed by her healthcare provider.
Last, colon and rectum cancer – also referred to as colorectal cancer or CRC – is the third deadliest. Every year in the U.S. more than 24,180 women die from this type of cancer. CRC affects the intestines, both large and small, which includes the rectum. The risk factors for this type include being over the age of 50, having a family history of CRC, having a personal history of polyps, and intestinal chronic inflammatory conditions, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Additionally, some lifestyle choices can increase a person’s risk. These include smoking, heavy alcohol consumption, and eating a low-fiber, high-fat diet. Depending on risk factors, regular CRC screening generally begins in a person’s 40s. CRC screening can be broken down into two main groups: stool-based tests and visual (structural) exams, such as a colonoscopy.
Want to learn more about the most common cancers affecting women? Check out the accompanying resource from Natera for further information.