Cancer is a general term for disease in which abnormal cells in the body divide uncontrollably and invade other tissues. Cancer can occur in any organ and in any cell type within the body. Cancer cells spread throughout the body through the blood and lymph systems. There are over 100 different kinds of cancer, many of which form solid tumors, or masses of tissue. Cancers of the blood, such as leukemias, generally do not form solid tumors.
Although scientists are studying and learning about cancer at a rapid pace, the cause of many cancers is still poorly understood. More science is needed to understand and prevent cancer. About one in three people are diagnosed with cancer at some time in their life, and about one in five dies of cancer. Most cancers develop slowly and can appear any time spanning 5 to 40 years after exposure to a carcinogen. For example, the latency of cancer of the lung could be 30 years after exposure. Although cancer can develop in children and adults, it is most common among middle-aged and elderly persons. The number of cancer cases has risen dramatically over the past 40 years, but much of this increase is a reflection of the increase in population and reporting. According to the American Cancer Society, cancer mortality rates from all causes have been declining since 1992, as have incidence rates, understood to be in large part due to reductions in tobacco use and advances in early detection and treatment.
Genetics play a role in the diagnosis of cancer. About 5-10 percent of diagnoses are attributed to mutations in specific genes. Researchers have identified over 50 hereditary cancer syndromes (disorders that may predispose individuals to developing certain cancers, National Cancer Institute).
Scientists agree that people may also be diagnosed with cancer due to repeated long-term contact with carcinogens in the environment. Carcinogens are any cancer-causing chemical. These include tobacco, sunlight, x-rays and certain chemicals that may be found in the air, water, food, drugs and workplace. Some of the leading associations between chemicals in the environment and cancer have been learned through occupational exposures. Pharmaceuticals and other substances are believed to account for some cancers as well. In each case, the duration of time exposed, route of exposure (inhalation, dermal, ingestion, etc.) as well as dose, toxicity of the chemical and health factors (age, weight, underlying conditions) are all crucial to understanding the associations of environmental pollutants or contaminants to cancer.
Personal habits and lifestyle may also contribute to cancer. Good nutrition, regular exercise, protection from too much sun, and not smoking or being around second-hand smoke can all reduce the risk of cancer.
To explore cancer data, click here.
Tracking Cancer in Louisiana
The Health Data Explorer contains information on the cancer including the average annual incidence rates and the annual counts of new cases for the following types of cancer for all age groups and, if noted, childhood groups:
Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (includes childhood)
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (includes childhood)
Brain and Central Nervous System (includes childhood)
Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Kidney and Renal Pelvis
Leukemia (includes childhood)
Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct
Melanoma of the Skin
Oral Cavity and Pharynx
For more information about cancer measures, please see the Glossary of Terms.