Estimates of the worldwide mortality from 25 cancers in 1990

Int J Cancer. 1999 Sep 24;83(1):18-29. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19990924)83:1<18::aid-ijc5>;2-m.


We present here worldwide estimates of annual mortality from all cancers and for 25 specific cancer sites around 1990. Crude and age-standardised mortality rates and numbers of deaths were computed for 23 geographical areas. Of the estimated 5.2 million deaths from cancer (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), 55% (2.8 million) occurred in developing countries. The sex ratio is 1.33 (M:F), greater than that of incidence (1.13) due to the more favourable prognosis of cancer in women. Lung cancer is still the most common cause of death from cancer worldwide with over 900,000 deaths per year, followed by gastric cancer with over 600,000 deaths and colorectal and liver cancers accounting for at least 400,000 deaths each. In men, deaths from liver cancer exceed those due to colo-rectal cancer by 38%. Over 300,000 deaths of women are attributed to breast cancer, which remains the leading cause of death from cancer in women, followed by cancers of the stomach and lung with 230,000 annual deaths each. In men, the risk of dying from cancer is highest in eastern Europe, with an age-standardised rate for all sites of 205 deaths per 100,000 population. Mortality rates in all other developed regions are around 180. The only developing area with an overall rate of the same magnitude as that in developed countries is southern Africa. All of eastern Asia, including China, has mortality rates above the world average, as do all developed countries. The region of highest risk among women is northern Europe (age-standardised rate = 125.4), followed by North America, southern Africa and tropical South America. Only south-central and western Asia (Indian subcontinent, central Asia and the middle-eastern countries) and Northern Africa are well below the world average of 90 deaths per 100,000 population annually. Our results indicate the potential impact of preventive practices. It is estimated that 20% of all cancer deaths (1 million) could be prevented by eliminating tobacco smoking. Infectious agents account for a further 16% of deaths.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual
  • Developing Countries
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • North America / epidemiology
  • Pacific Islands / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • South America / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology