- A person’s risk of developing cancer depends on many factors, including age, genetics, and exposure to risk factors (including some potentially avoidable lifestyle factors). Cancer risk factors are overall similar worldwide. Smoking, insufficient physical activity, alcohol, diet, overweight and obesity, and infections account for a high proportion of cancers worldwide, as they do in the UK.
- Prevalence of different risk factors varies by region and country, this is partly why overall cancer incidence rates, and the most common types of cancer, also vary by region and country.
- Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the world, and around a third of tobacco-caused deaths are due to cancer (2015 projected). Most of the world’s smokers live in low- or middle-income countries.
- Alcohol drinking causes an estimated 6% of deaths worldwide, around 1 in 8 of which are due to cancer (2012). Alcohol drinking prevalence is highest in Europe and America.
- Unhealthy diets, e.g. low in fruit and vegetables and high in salt, are becoming more common in lower-resource countries.Overweight and obesity are leading causes of death worldwide.
- Overweight and obesity prevalence is increasing particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
- Infections cause 18% of the global cancer burden, with a much higher proportion in low-income countries.
Worldwide cancer statistics
New cases of worldwide cancer, 2012, UK
Deaths from worldwide cancer, 2012, UK
- In 2012, an estimated 14.1 million new cases of cancer occurred worldwide.
- More than 4 in ten cancers occurring worldwide are in countries at a low or medium level of Human Development Index (HDI).
- The four most common cancers occurring worldwide are lung, female breast, bowel and prostate cancer. These four account for around 4 in 10 of all cancers diagnosed worldwide.
- Lung cancer is the most common cancer in men worldwide. More than 1 in 10 of all cancers diagnosed in men are lung cancers.
- Worldwide, almost 32.5 million people diagnosed with cancer within the five years previously were alive at the end of 2012 (estimated).
- An estimated 169.3 million years of healthy life were lost globally because of cancer in 2008.
- Incidence rates in the UK are lower than in the European Union in males, but higher in females.
- Incidence rates in the UK are lower than in the More Developed Regions of the world in males, but higher in females. For both sexes, rates in the UK are higher than in the Less Developed Regions of the world.
- In 2012, an estimated 8.2 million people died from cancer worldwide.
- More than half of cancer deaths worldwide occurred in countries at a low or medium level of the Human Development Index (HDI).
- Lung, liver, stomach, and bowel are the most common causes of cancer death worldwide, accounting for nearly half of all cancer deaths.
- Lung cancer causes the most cancer deaths worldwide. Almost a fifth of all cancer deaths worldwide are lung cancers.
- Mortality rates in the UK are lower than in the European Union in males, but higher in females.
- Mortality rates in the UK are lower than the More Developed Regions of the world in males, but higher in females. For both sexes, rates in the UK are higher than the Less Developed Regions of the world.
- Poster showing a map of cancer incidence worldwide (February 2014)
- Poster showing a map of cancer mortality worldwide (February 2014)
- Worldwide cancer Factsheet (in conjunction with IARC) (February 2014)
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The latest incidence and mortality statistics available for cancer worldwide are 2012 (estimated).
Some common cancers are defined using slightly different ICD codes in this section than used for the UK data.
An understanding of worldwide data quality is relevant to interpreting these stats.
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