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Cancer Burden in Illinois

The Illinois State Cancer Registry is the only population-based source for cancer incidence information in Illinois. Cancer cases are collected through mandated reporting by hospitals, ambulatory surgical treatment centers, non-hospital affiliated radiation therapy treatment centers, independent pathology labs, dermatologists, and through the voluntary exchange of cancer patient data with other (mostly nearby) states.

In this section, the burden of cancer upon Illinoisans is described with an overview of data covering state demographics, cancer incidence, and cancer mortality.

Six priority cancers have been identified based upon the opportunity for prevention and early detection:

  • Female breast
  • Cervical
  • Colorectal
  • Lung
  • Prostate
  • Skin

Each of the priority cancers have the following detailed information:

  • General statistics
  • Risk factors
  • Prevention and early detection
  • Additional information sources
  • Data measures and targets
  • Incidence and mortality by race and ethnicity
  • Counties with the highest incidence

In addition to the priority cancers, information is provided on the 13 cancer types that are most common for late-stage diagnosis:

  • Bladder
  • Brain
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney and renal pelvis
  • Leukemia
  • Liver
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Oral cavity and pharynx
  • Ovarian
  • Pancreas
  • Stomach
  • Thyroid
  • Uterus

Information provided includes the following:

  • Risk factors
  • Incidence rate by cancer and for late-stage diagnosis
  • Mortality rate


According to U.S. census data, the population estimate for the state of Illinois in 2019 was 12,671,821. Figure 2 demonstrates the Illinois population by race: 76.8% White, 14.6% Black, 5.9% Asian, 17.5% Hispanic or Latino, and 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native. Hispanics may be of any race.

Illinois Population Estimate, by Race and Ethnicity (2019 U.S. Census)

According to U.S. census data, from 2015-2019, 89.2% of Illinois residents 25 years of age or older and had graduated from high school. Figure 3 shows the percentage of the population by educational attainment.

Educational Attainment in Illinois: Persons 25 Years and Older (2015-2019 U.S. Census)

According to the U.S. census data in 2019, 22.6% of the Illinois population is under 18 years of age and 77.4% is 18 years of age or older, as shown in figure 4.

Illinois Population Estimate Under and Over 18 Years (2019 U.S. Census)

Figure 5 shows the distribution of Illinois residents by age in 2019.

Illinois Population Estimate, by Age Group (2019 U.S. Census)

In 2019, 76.8% of Illinois residents reported English as the language spoken at home. Other languages spoken at home include 13.5% Spanish, 5.6% other Indo-European, 3% Asian and Pacific Islanders, and 1.1% other languages. See figure 6.

Illinois Population Estimates, by Languages Spoken at Home (2015-2019 U.S. Census)

Cancer Incidence

A total of 1,891,426 cases of invasive cancer among Illinois residents were reported to the Illinois State Cancer Registry (ISCR) from 1986 through 2017, including 69,222 new cases reported in 2017. The overall race distribution for cases in 2017, as shown in figure 7, was 82.6% White, 13.3% Black, 3.1% Asian/other races, and 1.1% unknown race. All of the following data came from the ISCR.

Cancer Incidence among Illinois Residents by Race (1986-2017 ISCR)

For the ethnicity/race categories, a total of 1,712,498 cases of invasive cancer among Illinois residents were reported to ISCR from 1990 through 2017. Figure 8 shows the ethnicity/race distribution for cases diagnosed in 2017 of 7.2% Hispanics (any race) and 92.8% non-Hispanics (any race); among non-Hispanic cases, non-Hispanic Whites accounted for 81.5% and non-Hispanic Blacks 14.2%.

In 2017, Black males continued to have the highest overall age-adjusted invasive cancer incidence rates of all major race/gender groups, as shown in figure 9. In general, males and females of Asian/other races in Illinois had substantially lower cancer incidence rates than the White or Black populations.

Cancer Incidence by Ethnicity (1990-2017 ISCR)

Overall Age-Adjusted Cancer Incidence per 100,000 Population (2017 ISCR)

Breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer among females in Illinois, accounting for 29.8% of 34,687 invasive cancer diagnoses in females during 2017. The predominance of breast cancer among females persists for all major race and ethnicity groups.

The incidence of female breast cancer diagnosed in the in-situ stage increased steadily for every race and ethnicity group in the period of 1986-1999 with an annual percent increase of 8.2 but slowed after 1999. The annual percent change between 1999 and 2012 was an increase of 1.7 for all races.

Between 2012 and 2017, the annual percent change in breast cancer diagnoses in the in-situ stage decreased by 1.9% annually in the overall Illinois population. The trend suggests that screening mammography usage and the earlier detection of breast cancer among Illinois women overall has plateaued.

For Illinois males, prostate cancer was the most frequently diagnosed invasive cancer, accounting for 24.1% of 34,535 new cancer diagnoses in men during 2017. Black males had the highest prostate cancer incidence rates among all race groups, approximately 67.7% higher than those observed for White males and over three and a half times those observed for males of Asian/other races in 2017.

The incidence of male prostate cancer had an 18.7% annual increase between 1989 and 1992. The rate then dropped slightly before plateauing between 1995 and 2008. From 2008 to 2013 the annual percent change for prostate cancer incidence indicated a 9.2% decrease on average. After 2013 the trend again flattened out through 2017. The same trend was seen across 1986-2017 in both White and Black men.

A total of 18,342 new cases of cancer were diagnosed during 1986-2017 among Illinois children aged 0 to 19 years. The three most common diagnostic sites for childhood cancer in Illinois were, in descending order, leukemia, central nervous system, and lymphoma.

Cancer Mortality

According to the ISCR, from 1986 through 2017, 780,990 Illinois residents died from cancer. Figure 10 demonstrates the race distribution for these deaths as 83.8% among the White population, 14.8% in the Black population, and the remainder among the Asian/other race population group (1.3%).

Cancer Mortality by Race (1986-2017 ISCR)

From 1990 through 2017, 687,359 Illinois residents died from cancer, as shown in figure 11. The distribution for these deaths was 2.9% Hispanic (any race) and 97.1% non-Hispanics (any race). Among non-Hispanic deaths, 83.2% were non-Hispanic Whites and 15.4% non-Hispanic Blacks.

Cancer Mortality by Ethnicity (1990-2017 ISCR)

Black males had the highest overall age-adjusted mortality rates from cancer from 1986 through 2017, about 42% higher than the rate for White males and three times the rate for males identified as Asian or other races (Figure 12). Similarly, Illinois’ cancer mortality rates for Black females exceeded those for White females by about 27% and were over two and a half times those observed among females identified as Asian or other races in Illinois. Non-Hispanic males and females (any race) had mortality rates that were almost twice that of their Hispanic (any race) counterparts.

Overall Age-Adjusted Cancer Mortality per 100,000 Population (1986-2017 ISCR)

Based on age-adjusted cancer mortality rates, covering 1986-2017, lung cancer remains the leading cause of death from cancer for both Illinois males and females, followed by prostate cancer for males, and breast cancer for females. The third leading cause of cancer death is from colorectal cancer for both males and females.

From 1986 through 2017, among males of all races, over one-third of all cancer deaths were from cancer of the lung and bronchus (30.8%), 10.6% were from prostate cancer, and 10.4% were from cancer of the colon and rectum. These three cancers accounted for more than half of all cancer deaths (51.8%).

From 1986 through 2017, 23.3% of all cancer deaths among females of all races were due to cancer of the lung and bronchus, 16.3% were due to cancer of the breast, and 11.0% were due to cancer of the colon and rectum. These three cancers made up 50.6% of all cancer deaths in females.

Priority Cancers