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Rare Types of Cancer

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: lrohner • updated: 3/1/2011

The incidence of cancer has been steadily increasing for some time. Yet some cancers are for more prevalent than others. This article focuses on rare types of cancer, some of which are well-known and others that are somewhat obscure.

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    Cancer is generally used to refer to conditions that are caused by an uncontrollable growth, division and proliferation of cells. It can occur in almost all parts of the body, in almost all types of cells. Yet, some cancers are far more common than others, due to a variety of causes, some of which are known, but others are still completely shrouded in mystery.

    This article is not meant to explain the reasons behind these differences in incidence, but it gives an overview of rare types of cancer, some of which are relatively well-known, and others that remain rather obscure.

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    Identifying Rare Types of Cancer

    In order to identify rare types of cancer, the main measure that was used is the amount of new cases reported in the United States (2010 data) and the United Kingdom (2008 data). The mortality rate is not taken into account. The data that is used for identifying the cancer types, is construed as general as possible, including both men and women, and all ethnicities. Differences between sexes and ethnicities may exist, but will not be considered within this article.

    The number of new cases will be given for both the US and UK data for each type of cancer.

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    List of Rare Cancers

    The threshold for this list is either less than 10,000 cases in the US, less than 3,000 cases in the UK, or both if applicable. Here is the list of rarest cancer types (in alphabetical order), based on the amount of new cases for both the US and The UK:

    • Bone cancer (US: 2,650, UK: 591). The US data includes the joints, whereas the UK data is based solely on bone cancer.
    • Cervix cancer (US: 12,200, UK: 2,828). Logically, the numbers here are limited to women.
    • Colorectal cancer, a specific type: anal cancer. (US: 5,260, UK: 938).
    • Eye cancer (US: 2,480, UK: 475).
    • Gallbladder (US: 9,760, UK: 670). The US data includes other biliary cancers.
    • Leukemia types: acute lymphocytic leukemia (US: 5,330, UK: 612), and chronic myeloid leukemia (US: 4,870, UK: 590).
    • Mouth cancer (US: 10,840, UK: 1,695).
    • Penis cancer (US: 1,250, UK: 468). Logically, these numbers are limited to men.
    • Pharyngeal cancer (US: 12,660, UK: 1,084).
    • Salivary gland cancer (US: 2,050, UK: 568).
    • Small intestine cancer (US: 6,960, UK: 977).
    • Testis cancer (US: 8,480, UK: 1,990). Logically, these numbers are again limited to men.
    • Tongue cancer (US: 10,990, UK: 1,642).
    • Vaginal cancer (US: 2,300, UK: 243). Here, the numbers are again logically limited to women.
    • Vulvar cancer (US: 3,900, UK: 1,120). Again, these numbers are logically limited to women.
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