Medical research has focused for many years on cancer as globally, it is a leading cause of death. The incidence rates for different types of cancer vary by country and can depend on a population’s lifestyle choices, obesity rates, sun exposure, and other factors.

In the United States, the National Cancer Institute estimates that doctors will have diagnosed 1,806,590 new cancer cases in 2020, and that there will be 606,520 cancer deaths.

Many different types of cancers can occur anywhere in the body. Common forms of this disease include lung, breast, and prostate cancer. Experts link certain factors to developing cancer, such as genetics or exposure to certain substances like cigarette smoke, alcohol, or chemicals.

This article looks at cancer survival, incidence, and death rates, compares the countries with the highest and lowest cancer rates, and evaluates possible reasons for these figures.

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The chart below lists the 5-year survival statistics for cancer, as well as the age-standardized cancer incidence and death rates of various countries. Age-standardized figures are weighted to account for the differences between the number of people across different age groups in the populations of different countries.

For example, one country may have more cancer deaths and incidences, but also an older overall population. Generally speaking, older populations will be more at risk of cancer. Age standardized figures aim to erase these differences in population ages, to provide more accurate comparative data between cancer figures in different countries.

CountryIncidence rate
(age standardized)
Mortality rate
(age standardized)
5-Year survivors
United States362.286.38,432,938
United Kingdom319.9100.51,514,320

Cancer rates may be higher in some countries than others because of differences within healthcare systems. People in some countries may have more limited treatment options or contrasting standards of care.

Some cancers are genetic, meaning that if a population has a higher incidence of a specific cancer, it can also show up as a higher incidence rate in future generations.

Some cancers can also have environmental causes. If a country has a higher occurrence of that factor, such as stress levels or air pollution, that may correlate with higher cancer rates.

The following countries have the lowest reported rates of cancer:


The country with the lowest cancer incidence and death rate is India. Doctors in India focus on early detection because cancer found early is more treatable and less expensive to manage.

The primary issues keeping Indian citizens from early diagnosis and treatment include an absence of knowledge, misinformation, low trust in public health, and unequal health expenditure across the population. In India, 80% of health expenditures occur in the private sector.

By working to address this, those in India can work toward improving everyone’s means of receiving an early diagnosis and treatment.

Doctors in India have laid out an approach to combat cancer that focuses on:

  • prevention and education
  • service delivery
  • research

They emphasize that it is essential to work on all three areas concurrently, rather than prioritizing one over the other.


Mexico has the second-lowest cancer death rate globally. Mexico has lower rates of risk factors like tobacco usage, alcohol consumption, UV exposure, and occupational risk compared to countries with high cancer rates, such as France.

Tobacco usage in Mexico, in particular, is only 13%, compared to a 25.9% rate in France. These reduced risk factors may contribute to Mexico’s lower incidence and mortality rate for cancer.

Additionally, Mexico has cancer management guidelines and a breast cancer screening program. It also has an early detection program for breast, cervical, colon, and childhood cancers.

The following countries have the highest reported rates of cancer:

United States

The United States is the country with the highest cancer rate. The most prevalent cancers include breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon and rectum cancer, and skin melanoma.

It is possible that the U.S. has such a high cancer incidence rate because of screening tests that detect cancer more successfully than those in other countries. Through these screening tests, some people may discover they have cancer that would otherwise not have caused issues, and that doctors might not have diagnosed.

However, other risk factors for cancer, such as obesity, are prevalent in the U.S. In addition, the average age of the population in the U.S. is rising, and since cancer likelihood increases with age, this can also result in higher cancer incidence rates.


France is a close second in terms of cancer prevalence. The cancers most common in France include prostate, breast, lung, colon, and bladder.

One of the reasons for these high cancer incidence rates is the large number of people in France who smoke. Around 25.9% of French people smoke, according to the World Health Organization. Exposure to UV light, alcohol consumption, and occupational risks also contribute to the higher-than-average cancer rate.


While the United States has the highest cancer rate, China has the highest cancer mortality rate.

In China, the top five leading causes of cancer-related deaths are lung, liver, stomach, breast, and colon cancer.

Deaths from breast cancer are increasing rapidly, possibly due to declining fertility rates, people breastfeeding for shorter amounts of time, and individuals postponing having children until later in life.

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related death, and this is due to carcinogens such as air pollution, tobacco consumption, and exposure.

Gastrointestinal cancers are also a significant cause of cancer-related deaths. This may be because these cancers have a poorer prognosis, and late-stage presentation is more common.

One 2020 study found that China has lower survival rates of thyroid, breast, colorectal, prostate, and stomach cancers when compared to its neighboring countries of Japan and South Korea. The study speculates that this is due to lower screening rates in China, resulting in fewer early detection and treatment opportunities.


Russia has the second-highest cancer mortality rate. The most common cancers in Russia include breast, lung, prostate, colon, and stomach.

Like China, gastrointestinal cancers are common in Russia. These do not have excellent prognoses, and doctors often diagnose them at a later stage. Delayed diagnoses reduce the chance of proper treatment, as an individual may only experience symptoms once cancer has spread to other organs.

Experts suggest that the high number of breast cancer-related deaths in Russia could decrease with national screening and cancer control programs.

Worldwide, cancer is one of the leading causes of death. Genetics, environmental causes, and personal health affect each country’s cancer rate.

The country with the lowest cancer mortality rate is India, where the doctors stress the importance of early detection and research. The United States has the highest cancer rate of all observed countries, possibly due to advanced screening tests.

China is the country with the highest rate of cancer-related death. Lung cancer, in particular, is extremely common in China, likely due to risk factors such as air pollution and smoking.