The prevalence of metastatic cancers in the United States has risen in recent years and is expected to increase further by 2025, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Researchers estimated the prevalence of metastasis in 6 common cancer types and found a linear increase for 5 of the cancers from 1990 to 2018. The researchers also estimated that 4 of the cancer types would see an increase in metastatic prevalence by 2025. 

To conduct this study, the researchers used population-based data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries. They used a back-calculation method to estimate the prevalence of metastatic cancer among patients with breast, prostate, lung, colorectal, and bladder cancer as well as melanoma in 2025. 

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Data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census Bureau were used to determine cancer-specific mortality and to project future population numbers.

The researchers identified a linear increase in the prevalence of metastatic cancers, except for prostate cancer, from 1990 to 2018. The largest increase in prevalence was for melanoma, at 258%, followed by bladder cancer, at 62%. 

In 2018, the estimated prevalence of metastatic cancers — for the 6 common cancer types — was 623,405. This encompasses:

  • 174,090 lung cancers
  • 140,230 breast cancers
  • 133,234 colorectal cancers
  • 120,368 prostate cancers
  • 39,716 melanomas
  • 15,767 bladder cancers.

The prevalence of metastatic cancers for these 6 types is projected to increase to 693,452 in the year 2025. This encompasses:

  • 169,347 breast cancers
  • 160,743 lung cancers
  • 156,812 prostate cancers
  • 149,840 colorectal cancers
  • 38,691 melanomas
  • 18,019 bladder cancers. 

These numbers represent an increased prevalence for all cancer types except lung cancer and melanoma. The metastatic prevalence for these 2 cancers is expected to decrease.

Despite the overall increasing prevalence of metastatic disease, the researchers found that 1-year and 5-year survival rates improved linearly for all cancers except bladder cancer. 

“This study demonstrates the growing burden of metastatic cancer in the United States,” the researchers noted. “Despite this growing burden, little is known about the needs of these survivors.”

The researchers suggested that leveraging existing resources — such as data from cancer registries, foundation-based registries, and electronic health record databases — can help to address research gaps in this patient population.


Gallicchio L, Devasia TP, Tonorezos E, et al. Estimation of the numbers of individuals living with metastatic cancer in the United States. J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online August 22, 2022. doi:10.1093/jnci/djac158

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor