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Annual Report: Cancer Death Rates in the US Continue to Decline

Article date: December 16, 2013

By Stacy Simon

The rate of death from cancer in the United States continues to decline among both men and women, among all major racial and ethnic groups, and for the most common types of cancer, including lung, colon, breast, and prostate. The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, published early online Monday in the journal Cancer, shows that the death rate from all cancers combined is continuing the decline that began in the early 1990s. The report’s special feature section focuses on the ways other medical conditions impact survival among people with the most common types of cancer.

The American Cancer Society, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute work together to create the report, which has been published each year since 1998. It provides an update of new cancer cases, death rates, and trends in the United States.

Gender and race

From 2001 through 2010, death rates from all cancers combined decreased on average 1.8% per year among men and 1.4% per year among women. Death rates among children decreased by 2% per year.

The rate of new cancer cases decreased by an average 0.6% per year among men between 2001 and 2010 and stayed the same for women. But for children ages 14 and younger, the rate of new cancer cases increased by 0.8%.

The highest rates of new cancer cases and cancer death rates between 2006 and 2010 were among black men. Lung, prostate, and colon cancer were the leading causes of cancer death among men in almost every racial and ethnic group. For most groups of women, the leading causes of cancer death were lung, breast, and colon cancer.

Specific cancer types

Death rates from lung cancer dropped among women from 2006 to 2010. Lung cancer death rates in men also dropped, as they have since the early 1990s. These findings are largely attributed to declines in smoking.

Colon cancer death rates continue to decline, which the report attributes largely to improvements in the use of colon cancer screening. The rate of breast cancer cases between 2001 and 2010 increased among black women, but stayed the same for all other racial and ethnic groups. The rate of breast cancer deaths declined for most groups.

The rate of new cases of some cancers, including pancreas, kidney, thyroid, liver, melanoma of the skin, myeloma (cancer of plasma cells), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma increased in men from 2001 through 2010.

For women during this time period, the rate of new cases increased for cancers of the thyroid, melanoma of the skin, kidney, pancreas, liver, and uterus.

Among the risk factors for some of these cancer types are excess weight and lack of physical activity.

How other diseases affect survival

Each year, the report includes a special feature section. This year’s section evaluates the impact of other diseases – called comorbidities – on surviving lung, colon, breast, or prostate cancer. The report examines how comorbidities affect the likelihood a patient is to die from their cancer or another cause, depending on factors including severity of the disease, type and stage of cancer, and age. Having this type of information is important for patients and doctors to make informed decisions about treatment.

The most common non-cancer conditions among cancer patients were diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure, and cerebrovascular disease (problems with blood vessels in the brain). Men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer were less likely than people with colon or lung cancer to have a comorbidity. People with lung cancer were the most likely to have comorbidities, and the most common was COPD.

Among women with breast cancer, those diagnosed at an early stage were much more likely to die from a cause other than cancer. Both comorbidity and age affected overall survival, as it did for women with regional stage cancer. However, among women diagnosed with breast cancer at a late stage, about 69% or more died from cancer within 5 years after diagnosis, at all levels of age or comorbidity. The findings were similar for men with prostate cancer.

Among men and women with colon cancer, at all ages and comorbidity levels, approximately 7% to 26% of those diagnosed at an early stage died from their cancer compared with 25% to 44% diagnosed at a later stage and more than 80% of those diagnosed at the latest stages. Overall survival and likelihood of dying from non-cancer causes were strongly linked to cormorbidity level and age in all but the latest stages.

The affect of comorbidities on the likelihood of both cancer and non-cancer death was smaller for lung cancer than for other cancers because of lung cancer’s relatively poor prognosis even among people diagnosed at an early stage.

Citation: Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2010, Featuring Prevalence of Comorbidity and Impact on Survival Among Persons With Lung, Colorectal, Breast, or Prostate Cancer. Published early online December 16, 2013 in Cancer. First author: Brenda K. Edwards, PhD, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.

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