News & Blog

Brain Tumor Facts & Figures, February 2018: Average-Years of Life Lost

As announced in our recent post about new features on this blog in 2018, we’re beginning a monthly series called “Brain Tumor Facts & Figures” that go “beyond” some of the more well-known stats about this disease (e.g. nearly 700,000 Americans living with a brain tumor; nearly 80,000 more will be diagnosed in 2018; and an average five-year survival rate of only around 35%). For a full breakdown of all the standard brain tumor facts, one can always view our Brain Tumors Quick Facts webpage.

The facts and stats provided in this series are aimed to help you in your advocacy, fundraising, and awareness-raising efforts by presenting pieces of information that can help convey the difficult realities* our community is up against to those fortunate enough to not be impacted by brain tumors. These can be used to make a case for support to your members of Congress, state legislators, family, friends, co-workers, and other members of your community and network.

This month, we look at some figures recently provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) about “Years of Life Lost” due to cancer from their recent Cancer Trends Progress Report**.

The Measure: Average-Years of Life Lost

What it Means: From the NCI’s report, “[Mortality] rates alone do not provide a complete picture of the burden that [deaths due to cancer] impose on the population. Another…measure that may add a different dimension is “Person-Years of Life Lost (PYLL)”—the years of life lost because of early death from [cancer or another cause].” PYLL caused by cancer helps to describe the extent to which promising lives are heartachingly cut short. PYLL for cancer deaths is measured as the difference between the actual age, and the expected age of death due to cancer. This calculation is estimated by linking life table data to each death of a person of a given age and sex. The life table permits a determination of the number of additional years an average person of that age, race, and sex would have been expected to live.

For Average-Years of Life Lost (AYLL), specifically, the measure represents PYLL divided by the number of people who lost their lives.

Where Brain Cancer Ranks: Brain cancer ranks as having the 4th-highest Average-Years of Life Lost of ALL cancers, after only testicular cancer, cervical cancer, and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, with an average of nearly 22 years of life lost for every death due to brain cancer in the US.

  1. Testis (35.1 AYLL)
  2. Cervical (26.5 AYLL)
  3. Hodgkin Lymphoma (22.1 AYLL)
  4. Brain & CNS (21.9 AYLL)

This is higher than the AYLL for breast cancer (18.9), melanoma skin cancer (17.1), leukemia (15.6), colon cancer (15.4), lung cancer (15.2), pancreatic cancer (14.9), Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (14.0), and prostate cancer (9.9). It is also significantly higher the average of all cancer sites combined and averaged (15.7 years).

The Implications: Because brain cancer can often be very aggressive and difficult to treat, and because it is also one of the more common pediatric cancers, the average years of life lost for those who die from brain cancer is approximately equal to a quarter of their life. That is among the highest such rate for all cancers and well above the average. That is a harrowing figure and, simply, unacceptable. We have to do better in finding more effective treatments for this disease (and eventually cures) so that those diagnosed with this disease do not face the specter of losing so many valuable years with their family and friends.

*It is important to note that these types of statistics are based on past figures from cancer registries, and there is typically a lag on data reporter. There remains progress and momentum in the fight against brain tumors and brain cancer and real hope that in the future – and when these data catch-up – that we’ll see much-needed improvements in the mortality rates for brain cancer.

** Although this report was released on 2/12/18, it uses data from the most recent available year, which is 2014. To see more about the methodology of this report, visit:

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