Originally published: 20.DEC.2022
Last updated: 8.FEB.2024


Cancer affects millions of lives worldwide - associated with around 1 in 6 deaths in 2020 alone. Understanding the most common types of cancer is important for effective prevention, early detection, and essential treatment. [1]

According to the latest statistics available from the World Health Organization (WHO), the five most common cancers occurring worldwide in 2020 (in terms of new cases of cancer) are:

1. Female breast (2.26 million cases)
2. Lung (2.21 million cases)
3. Colon and rectum (1.93 million cases)
4. Prostate (1.41 million cases)
5. Skin (non-melanoma) (1.20 million cases)



What are the most common types of cancer?


#1 Breast cancer


Breast cancer is a form of cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts. Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the United States, accounting for around 1 in 3 new female cancers each year [2]. While breast cancer can occur in both men and women, female gender is one of the strongest breast cancer risk factors.

Other risk factors for breast cancer include:

  • Older age
  • History of breast conditions
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Radiation exposure
  • Obesity

#2 Lung cancer


Lung cancer is a form of cancer that begins when uncontrolled abnormal cells grow in an uncontrolled way in the lungs. Alongside breast cancer, lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide [3]. Smoking tobacco is the primary risk factor for lung cancer but it can also affect non-smokers.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include [4]:

  • Exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Previous radiation therapy
  • Exposure to radon gas
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Exposure to carcinogens

#3 Colorectal cancer


Colorectal cancer refers to a type of cancer that affects the colon or rectum. It is the third most common cancer worldwide - according to WHO, it accounts for around 10% of all cancer cases [5]. The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, and lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity, and obesity play pivotal roles.

Other risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Older age
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Diabetes

#4 Prostate cancer


Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that occurs in the prostate in men - a small gland that sits just below the bladder, in front of the rectum. Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly occurring cancers among men with the most common risk factor being age [6].

Other risk factors for prostate cancer include:

  • Family history of prostate cancer
  • Obesity
  • Race

#5 Skin cancer (non-melanoma)


Skin cancer usually develops on parts of the skin that have been exposed to the sun. There are three forms of skin cancer, these include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Exposure to UV radiation from natural sunlight and tanning beds is the most common cause and risk factor associated with non-melanoma skin cancer [7].

Other risk factors for non-melanoma skin cancer include:

  • Fair skin
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Precancerous skin lesions
  • Family history of skin cancer

What cancer causes the most deaths?


According to cancer statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer deaths - responsible for around 1.8 million deaths in 2020 alone [1].

Other cancers that cause a large number of deaths worldwide include:

  • Colon and rectum (916,000)
  • Liver (830,000)
  • Stomach (769,000)

Can you reduce your risk of cancer?


It’s estimated that around 30-50% of all cancer cases are preventable. There are several steps you can take towards lessening cancer risk factors and reducing your risk of common cancers.

  • Avoid smoking: Quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancer. In fact, after just 1 year of quitting smoking, your risk of lung cancer will be half of a person who is still smoking [8].

  • Practice healthy eating and remain physically active: Maintaining a healthy balanced diet and choosing to slot some physical activity into your daily schedule will not only leave you feeling more energized, but it will also help in reducing your cancer risk.

  • Protect yourself from the sun: One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime [9]. The good news is that this can be prevented by making some healthy choices when it comes to sun exposure. Avoiding midday sun, opting for the shade, and wearing the correct sunscreen factor are all great places to start!

  • Get vaccinated: Viral infections such as Hepatitis B and HPV can both be protected against with a simple vaccination.

  • Regularly screen: Checking up on your general health as well as screening for certain cancers is one of the best ways to stay in the know when it comes to cancer and your risk. You can do this with your doctor or with home lab testing options.


Cancer that is diagnosed early is more likely to be successfully treated. This is why regular cancer screening and health check-ups are so important - both of which can be done with your local healthcare provider and with LetsGetChecked's range of testing options.

LetsGetChecked offers over 30 health testing options, including a HPV Test, a Colon Cancer Screening Test, and a PSA test. Online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated clinical team will be available for support and help along the way.


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References


  1. Who.int
  2. Who.int
  3. Who.int
  4. Mayoclinic.org
  5. Who.int
  6. Who.int
  7. Mayoclinic.org
  8. Cancer.org
  9. Aad.org