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18 million cancer survivors expected in U.S. by 2022

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In a Wednesday, April 25, 2012 photo, cancer survivor Lawrence Gentner, 68, of Snellville, Ga., talks with his exercise group after a class, in Atlanta. AP

(CBS News) The number of cancer survivors living in the U.S. is expected to surge by one-third come 2022, with about 18 million people expected to survive the disease.

The "Cancer Treatment and Survivorship Facts and Figures" report finds that even though cancer incidence rates are decreasing, the number of survivors is growing due to the aging and growth of the population, as well as improved rates in cancer survival. Currently there an estimated 13.7 million people living in the United States who have survived cancer.

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The report is the first of its kind collaboration from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute. It's published in the June 14 issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The report showed that in 2012, the three most common cancers among men with a history of the disease were prostate cancer (43 percent of male survivors), colorectal cancer (9 percent), and melanoma (7 percent). As for women, 41 percent of them had breast cancer at some point, 8 percent had uterine cancer, followed by 8 percent reporting that they had colon cancer. Those proportions are expected to be largely unchanged by 2022, the researchers said.

Other notable findings were that about 45 percent of cancer survivors are 70 or older, while only 5 percent are younger than 40 years old. The median age of a patient's diagnosis was 66.

However children are also affected: The report found there are 58,510 survivors of childhood cancer living in the U.S., and an additional 12,060 children will be diagnosed in 2012.

Most cancer survivors were diagnosed five or more years ago, with 15 percent of survivors having been diagnosed 20 or more years ago.

The report's authors say that this growing number makes it increasingly important that caregivers and health care providers better understand the unique medical and psychological needs of cancer survivors

"With this effort, we review the critical issues related to cancer treatment and survivorship," Dr. Elizabeth R. Ward, national vice president of intramural research at the American Cancer Society and senior author of the report, said in a news release. "Many survivors, even among those who are cancer free, must cope with the long-term effects of treatment, as well as psychological concerns such as fear of recurrence. As more people survive cancer, it is vital that health care providers are aware of the special needs of cancer patients and caregivers."

HealthPop reported on a recent study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in April found cancer survivors face a new set of risks after surviving the disease, with almost half of them expected to die of another chronic disease. Cardiovascular disease was the main cause of non-cancer death.

Also in April, the American Cancer Society released a new set of guidelines urging cancer survivors to exercise and eat healthier because it could help prevent the cancer from coming back.

The last five years saw more than 100 studies involving cancer survivors, HealthPopreported, many of them finding that exercise and/or a healthy diet was associated with lower cancer recurrence rates and longer survival.

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