Cancer Projected to Become Leading Cause of Death by 2030

Male doctor working on a futuristic touchscreen display

Within the next 16 years, cancer will surpass heart disease to become the number-one cause of death in the United States, according to new projections from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)

Cancer cases are likely to rise 45% to 2.3 million cases a year by 2030, according to experts. The ASCO report stated that “this trend is driven largely by the nation’s rapidly aging population.” At the same time, thanks to improvements in cancer treatments, the number of cancer survivors will continue to grow. Already, about two-thirds of cancer patients live at least five years after diagnosis – an increase from about half in the 1970s. By 2022, an estimated 18 million cancer survivors will be living in the U.S.

The increase in cancer patients and survivors is predicted to put a significant strain on the health-care system, which may struggle to provide enough physicians and other screening and treatment services. Expansions in health-care insurance may also raise demand for cancer treatment. And, the growing financial pressures of providing cancer treatment may also force small or midsize oncology practices to combine or close in the coming years.

ASCO expects the number of oncologists to grow only 28% by 2030, which will amount to a shortage of about 1,400 physicians. As older oncologists begin to retire, patients may have to travel farther to find cancer care – particularly if they live in central and Midwestern states, where doctors are not as concentrated.