Division Of Public Health Systems

Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention

A Division of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services

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Maine Cancer Registry - All Cancers: Risk Factors, Prevention & Early Detection

Facts About Cancer in the U.S.

According to the 2006 American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures, an estimated 1,399,790 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer and 564,830 people will die from some form of this disease annually. Cancer varies by climate and region. In the U.S., cancer is diagnosed more often in the Northeast and areas of the South. Cancer is more common in men than in women. One in every two men and one in every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in his or her lifetime. Cancer is more common with increasing age.

Risk Factors for Cancer

The Harvard Report on Cancer Prevention in 1996 researched the risk factors for cancer. The estimated percent of total cancer deaths attributed to established causes of cancer were:

Risk Factor Percentages
Risk Factor Percentage
Tobacco 30%
Adult Diet/Obesity 30%
Sedentary Lifestyle 5%
Occupational Factors 5%
Family History of Cancer 5%
Viruses/Biological Elements 5%
Perinatal Factors/Growth 5%
Reproductive Factors 3%
Alcohol 3%
Socioeconomic Status 3%
Environmental Pollution 2%
Ionizing/UV Radiation 2%
Other 2%

The rate of lung cancer incidence in Maine males and females is significantly higher than the national estimates. Lung cancer, primarily caused by cigarette smoking, is the number one cause of cancer death. Other cancers associated with cigarette smoking are cancers of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, bladder and kidney.


The most successful way to prevent cancer is to limit the number of modifiable risk factors by following these guidelines:

  • Do not smoke
  • Eat a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in fats
  • Get some exercise every day
  • Limit alcohol intake

Early Detection

Deaths from breast, prostate, colorectal, oral, cervical, and skin cancer can be reduced by early detection. Recommended screening tests are listed here and discussed in more detail in the following chapters:

  • Mammogram
  • Pap Smear
  • Colorectal Exam
  • Mouth and Throat Exam
  • Skin Cancer Screening
  • Prostate Screening

Risk Factors in Maine

The 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) shows that:

  • Almost 21% of Maine adults smoke cigarettes.
  • Over 70% of Maine residents do not eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Over 27% of Maine residents indicate that they have not participated in any physical activity in the past month. This may contribute to obesity.

Only 54% of Maine residents report 30+ minutes of moderate physical activity 5 or more days a week or vigorous physical activity for 20+ minutes 3 or more days per week.

Early Detection in Maine

The 2004 BRFSS shows the following patterns of early detection in Maine:

  • Breast Cancer: Approximately 82% of the women in Maine, over age 40, have had a mammogram within the past 2 years. However, only 66% have had a mammogram within the screening guideline of one year.
  • Cervical Cancer: Eighty-nine percent of Maine women have had a Pap Smear within the recommended timeframe of three years.
  • Colon Cancer: 40% of men and women in Maine, over age 50, have had a fecal occult blood test (FOBT). Almost 60% of Maine men and women, over age 50, have had either a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy.

For information on cancer statistics in Maine, please see MCR's Annual Reports.