1st April 2013
When will cancer be cured?
There are more than 200 types of cancer. In 2007, they caused about 13% of all human deaths worldwide (7.9 million). Below is a graph showing 15 of the most common cancers in the USA, their five year survival rates, and current trends extrapolated into the future. This ignores possible major events or breakthroughs that could radically alter these trends, such as a technological singularity, or global disaster. It is simply intended to provide a general overview of progress and a visual representation that combines all of the major cancer types in one single, long-term graph.
As can be seen, there is considerable variation in survival rates. However, the next few decades are likely to see cures emerging for a number of cancers, with potentially every cancer eradicated by 2200 AD. With information technology becoming an ever larger part of medicine, researchers are gaining the ability to literally rewrite the software of biology. More targeted therapies, DNA sequencing, nano-medicine, robotic surgery and various other techniques may lead to a Moore's Law-style effect with exponential improvements in survival rates.
Some of these individual cancer types have already been covered in more detail on our timeline, and more will be added in the coming weeks. This graph is based on the latest data from the National Cancer Institute, with 2008 being the most recent year available for five-year survival rates. Click on the graph to view a larger version.