Biotech and Pharma

What do Americans spend fighting cancer?

ASCO cancer care conference kicks off

ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, will mark its 50th anniversary at a meeting kicking off Friday in Chicago.

The meeting is the year's biggest event in cancer research, drawing more than 30,000 physicians, researchers, analysts, investors and others, and showcasing thousands of datasets chronicling medicine's latest advances.

As the meeting gets underway, here's a look at where we stand in the fight against cancer.

How many people get cancer?

Half of all men and a third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer in their lifetimes. The median age of diagnosis is 66 years old.

This year, an estimated 1.67 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., with prostate, breast and lung cancers being the most common types.

The World Health Organization says more than 30 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented by modifying behaviors. Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer, accounting for about 22 percent of cancer deaths globally

Other risk factors include being overweight or obese, eating too few fruits and vegetables, low levels of physical activity and alcohol use.

Fortunately, the five-year survival rate in the U.S. for cancers diagnosed between 2003 and 2009 is 68 percent. That's up from 49 percent for 1975 to 1977.

—By CNBC's Meg Tirrell