Types of Cancer With the Highest Mortality Rates

Cancer is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. Though there are many things you can do to decrease your risk, some of the deadliest types aren’t easy to treat once you have them. Here are those types with high death rates (including the cancer with the highest death rate on page 8), and some of their biggest risk factors.

Kidney cancer

kidney cross section

Taking pain medications for a long period of time can increase your chances of developing kidney cancer. | iStock.com/HYWARDS

Five-year survival rate: 74% (stage II)

In 2014, 13,917 people died as a result of different types of kidney cancer. Taking certain pain medications for a long period of time and having high blood pressure, or taking medications to treat high blood pressure, increase your risk.

Next: This often progresses without symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose.

Pancreatic cancer

Illustration of male pancreas anatomy

It can be tough to diagnose pancreatic cancer. | iStock.com/sankalpmaya

Five-year survival rate: 7% (stage IIA)

Around 40,000 men and women in the United States die from this every year. It is extremely difficult to diagnose types that develop in the pancreas’s endocrine cells, because they don’t produce symptoms. Because catching cancers in their earliest stages matters, survival rates for this kind appear low regardless of the stage.

Next: Limiting your alcohol intake decreases your risk for this condition.

Liver cancer

illustration showing male liver anatomy

A long history of alcohol abuse can cause liver cancer. | iStock.com/sankalpmaya

Five-year survival rate: 11%

Rates of obesity and alcohol overuse only partially explain the prevalence of liver cancer in the U.S. In 2014, 24,598 people died as a result of liver cancer. Getting vaccinated against hepatitis B and avoiding too much alcohol can decrease your risk of developing this type of cancer.


Next: Chronic urinary tract infections increase your risk for these cancers.

Bladder cancer

hand grabbing toilet paper

A family history of bladder cancer increases your risk. | iStock.com

Five-year survival rate: 77%

Approximately 55,000 people receive new diagnoses of this type of cancer annually. In 2014, 15,775 people died from bladder cancer. If you have chronic urinary tract infections, drinking well water contaminated with arsenic, and a family history of bladder cancer all increase your risk.

Next: Doctors don’t yet know why most people develop this.



Myeloma develops in the bone marrow. | Martin/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Five-year survival rate for multiple myeloma: 49%

Scientists aren’t sure what causes this disease. It develops in the plasma (a component of blood) and causes tumors to develop in a person’s bone marrow. Multiple myeloma is the most common type. In 2014, 12,112 people died from myeloma.

Next: You’re most likely to develop this while going through, or after, menopause.

Uterine cancer

Older women eating dinner together

Your risk for developing uterine cancer increases as you get older. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Five-year survival rate: 45% (stage II)

This is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. In 2014, 9,727 women died as a result of uterine cancer. A woman’s risk for uterine cancer increases as she gets older. Doctors diagnose most cases in women who are going through menopause, or have already gone through it. Over 50,000 women receive a new diagnosis each year.

Next: Limit tobacco and alcohol consumption to avoid this.

Head and neck cancers

human head with headache pain

Limiting tobacco and alcohol can reduce your chances of developing a head or neck cancer. | iStock.com/the-lightwriter

Five-year survival rate depends on the type.

In 2014, 9,404 people died as a result of various types of head and neck cancers. Limiting your use of tobacco and your alcohol consumption can significantly reduce your risk of developing cancers that originate in the throat, nasal cavity, or other areas of the head not including the eyes or brain.

Next: This is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Lung cancer

3D illustration of Lungs

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death in the U.S. | iStock.com/yodiyim

Five-year survival rate: 17%

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. In 2014, 155,526 people died as a result of lung cancer. Cigarette smoking and other forms of persistent tobacco use are the most common causes of this type of cancer.

Next: Say no to tanning beds if you want to avoid this.

Skin cancer

woman lying on the beach in the hat

Try to limit your sunbathing time. | iStock.com/Foremniakowski

Five-year survival rate for melanoma: 53% (stage IIC)

This is the most common type of cancer in the United States. In 2014, 9,324 people died from various types of melanomas. Overexposure to ultraviolet light increases your melanoma risk the most. This includes exposure to both direct sunlight and artificial sources of UV light, like tanning beds.

Next: Depending on the type, this can progress slowly or very quickly.


sample of blood collection

Leukemia affects the bone marrow and blood. | iStock.com/Ca-ssis

Five-year survival rate for acute myeloid leukemia: 23%

Leukemia describes a group of cancers that affect the bone marrow and blood. The severity of the condition depends on how rapidly it progresses. Acute leukemias progress quickly, while chronic leukemias progress slowly. In 2014, 23,564 men and women died as a result of leukemia.

Next: The older you get, the more likely you are to develop cancers of the lymphatic system.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Doctor and patient

Your risk of developing this cancer increases as you get older. | iStock.com/AlexRaths

Five-year survival rate: 70%

Lymphomas are cancers that originate in the lymph system, responsible for creating the white blood cells that fight off infections and other diseases. In 2014, 20,387 people died as a result of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Your risk for developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma increases as you age.

Next: Make sure your screenings are up-to-date to catch this type early.

Colorectal cancer

Male Patient And Doctor Have Consultation In Hospital Room

Keeping your screenings up to date can help fight against this cancer. | monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Five-year survival rate: 55-80% (stage II)

In 2014, 51,651 people died from colorectal cancer. It is the third leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. You are most likely to develop this type of cancer beyond the age of 50. You can significantly reduce your risk if you keep your screenings up to date.

Next: Performing regular self-exams can help women catch these cancers early.

Breast cancer

Woman holding a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

Self exams are key to early detection. | iStock.com/AND-ONE

Five-year survival rate: 93% (stage II).

This is one of the most common type of cancer in women of all races and ethnicities. In 2014, 41,211 women and 465 men died as a result of breast cancer. Women especially should perform regular self-exams to aid in early detection.

Next: Caught early enough, men have a 99% chance of surviving five years.

Prostate cancer

Diagnosis prostate cancer written in the diagnostic form

Prostate cancer is the leading cause of death of men all ages. | iStock.com/designer491

Five-year survival rate: 99%

This affects hundreds of thousands of men in the United States each year. It is considered one of the leading causes of cancer death in men of all ages. In 2014, 28,343 men died as a result of prostate cancer. Caught in its earliest stages, however, it has a 99 percent survival rate, meaning the majority of those affected will make it into remission.

Next: This is one of the deadliest cancers in the U.S.

Ovarian cancer

Woman lying on couch with hand on stomach suffering from a stomachache.

Ovarian cancer is responsible for 3% of cancer deaths in women. | iStock.com/champja

Five-year survival rate: 70% (stage II)

This accounts for only 3% of cancers in women. However, it’s among the top 10 deadliest cancers in the United States. In 2014, 14,195 women died as a result. Unfortunately, women who are diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer, the most developed stage of the disease, have a 17% chance of survival.

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