There are several types of cancers, which doctors typically define based on what tissue they start in and what part of the body the cancer primarily affects. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, followed by lung and prostate cancers.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Though cancer can start in any area of the body, the prevalence rate of different cancers varies. Certain cancers occur much more frequently than others.

In some cases, a person’s sex or race can increase the likelihood that they will develop certain types of cancer in their lifetime.

Controllable factors, such as smoking, can also affect a person’s risk for developing certain cancers.

This article reviews the most common types of cancer overall as well as the most common cancers based on sex and race.

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According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in order for a cancer to qualify as a common type, the incidence rate in 2021 had to be at least 40,000.

Based on the NCI’s estimates, the most common cancer type in 2021 was breast cancer, with an estimated 284,200 new cases expected.

The next most common types include both prostate and lung cancers.

The following table provides a ranking of some of the most common cancer types. It also provides numbers for the most recent estimates of new cases and the 5-year relative survival rate.

A relative survival rate helps give an idea of how long a person with a particular condition may live after receiving a diagnosis compared with those without the condition.

For example, if the 5-year relative survival rate is 70%, it means that a person with the condition is 70% as likely as someone without the condition to live for 5 years.

It is important to remember that these figures are estimates. A person can consult a healthcare professional about how their condition is going to affect them.

RankCancerDefinitionPrevalencePercentage of all cancers5-year relative survival rate
1breast canceroccurs when the cells in the breast start to grow out of control284,200 new cases estimated in 202114.8%90.3%
2prostate cancerstarts in the cells of the prostate gland, which is a walnut-size gland, found only in males, that helps produce part of the semen248,530 new cases estimated in 202113.1%97.5%
3 lung canceroccurs when cells in the lungs grow out of control235,760 new cases estimated in 202112.4%21.7%
4colon and rectal (colorectal)start either in the colon or rectum149,500 new cases estimated in 20217.9%64.7%
5melanomaan aggressive form of skin cancer that accounts for only 1% of all skin cancer cases106,110 new cases estimated in 20215.6%93.3%
6bladderstarts in the cells of the urinary bladder, which is a hollow, muscular organ responsible for collecting and expelling urine from the body83,730 new cases estimated in 20214.4%77.1%
7non-Hodgkin lymphomaa type of cancer that starts in a person’s lymphatic system, which makes up part of the immune system81,560 new cases estimated in 20214.3%73.2%
8 kidney and renal pelvisstarts in the cells of the kidneys, which filter the blood and create urine to expel waste from the body76,080 new cases estimated in 20214.0%75.6%
9endometriala type of uterine cancer that develops in the lining of the uterus66,570 new cases estimated in 20213.5%81.1%
10leukemia, all typescancers that affect the blood and often start in the bone marrow61,090 new cases estimated in 20213.2%65%
11pancreaticstarts in the cells of pancreas, which helps regulate how the body uses sugars60,430 new cases estimated in 20213.2%10.8%
12thyroidstarts in the thyroid gland, which helps to regulate several aspects of the body’s functions, including weight gain and temperature regulation44,280 new cases estimated in 20212.3%98.3%
13liver and intrahepatic bile ductstarts in the cells of the liver, which helps filter out toxins from the body, and bile ducts42,230 new cases estimated in 20212.2%20.3%

Certain cancers affect people assigned male at birth more than others.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), some cancers that most often affect males include:

CancerPrevalence (out of every 100,000 people)
Prostate111.3
Colorectal cancer43.2
Lung cancer60.1
Melanoma29.3

According to the ACS, cancers that most often affect females include:

CancerPrevalence (out of every 100,000 people)
Breast129.1
Colorectal33.3
Endometrial28.1
Lung47.9
Cervical7.5
Melanoma18
Ovarian10.9

The following tables list the top 10 cancers that affect people based on their race, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

White

The table below lists the top 10 cancers to affect white people.

CancerPrevalence (per 100,000 people)
Breast127.5
Prostate98.7
Lung and bronchus54.5
Colorectal35.8
Corpus and uterus27.3
Melanoma25.1
Urinary bladder19.6
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma19.8
Kidney and renal pelvis17.1
Leukemia13.7

Black

The table below lists the top 10 cancers to affect Black people.

CancerPrevalence (per 100,000 people)
Prostate164.4
Breast121.2
Lung and bronchus54.1
Colorectal40.4
Corpus and uterus27.9
Kidney and renal pelvis17.6
Pancreas16.1
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma13.5
Myeloma13.2
Urinary bladder10.7

American Indian and Alaska Native

The table below lists the top 10 cancers to affect American Indian and Alaskan Native people.

CancerPrevalence (per 100,000 people)
Breast65.2
Prostate47
Lung and bronchus37.1
Colorectal25.7
Corpus and uterus18
Kidney and renal16.8
Non-hodgkin lymphoma9.9
Liver and intrahepatic bile duct9.9
Thyroid8
Pancreas7.9

Asian and Pacific Islander

The table below lists the top 10 cancers to affect Asian and Pacific Islander people.

CancerPrevalence (per 100,000)
Breast101
Prostate55.5
Lung and bronchus32.5
Colorectal27.8
Corpus and uterus21.6
Thyroid14.6
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma12.6
Liver and intrahepatic bile duct10.9
Pancreas9.6
Ovary8.7

Hispanic

The table below lists the top 10 cancers to affect Hispanic people.

CancerPrevalence (per 100,000)
Breast95.5
Prostate80.2
Colorectal32.3
Lung and bronchus27.4
Corpus and uterus24.8
Kidney and renal pelvis16.8
Non-Hodgkin lymphoma16.7
Liver and intrahepatic bile duct13.3
Thyroid13.1
Pancreas11.6

Health disparities

Though every person has a risk of developing cancer, a person’s race can play a role in the prevalence and overall risk of death from cancer.

According to a 2017 study, researchers noted that when comparing the population worldwide, people with African ancestry have a higher chance of developing cancer than other races and ethnicities across the world.

Reasons for this include racial disparities in healthcare and socioeconomic disparities. For example, 1 in 3 Black women state that they have experienced racial discrimination during a visit to a doctor. This can lead to a mistrust in healthcare professionals.

The authors of the 2017 study also noted that people with Hispanic heritage often have similar socioeconomic and cultural trends but lower overall cancer rates.

This led them to look more closely at the role of genes and biological factors as risk factors for cancer as well. They noted that some of the factors that increase a Black person’s chances of chronic inflammation and obesity may also increase their chances of developing cancer.

Learn more

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Anyone can develop cancer, though some people have an increased risk of developing certain cancers based on their race and sex. The most common cancers include breast, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers.

Race plays a role in cancer development as well as prognosis. People with African ancestry generally have a higher risk of developing cancers than other races.