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Annual Report: Rate of Death from Cancer Continues to Drop

Article date: January 7, 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 of the National Cancer Institute, 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 cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) and on HPV vaccination rates.

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 2000 through 2009, 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 1.8% per year.

The rate of new cancer cases decreased by an average 0.6% per year among men between 2000 and 2009 and stayed the same for women. But for children ages 0 - 14, the rate of new cancer cases increased by 0.6%.

The highest rates of new cancer cases between 2005 and 2009 were among black men and white women. Cancer death rates from 2005 through 2009 were highest among black men and black women, but these groups also showed the largest declines for the period between 2000 and 2009, compared with other racial groups.

Specific cancer types

For the third year in a row, death rates from lung cancer have dropped among women. 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 to improvements in the use of colon cancer screening and improved treatments. The rate of breast cancer cases between 2000 and 2009 stayed the same, while the rate of breast cancer deaths declined.

The rate of new cases of some cancers, including pancreas, kidney, thyroid, liver, melanoma of the skin, and myeloma (cancer of plasma cells), increased in men from 2000 through 2009.

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, as well as for leukemia.

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

“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections. We must face these hurdles head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control cancer.”

Cancer and HPV

Each year, the report includes a special feature section. This year’s section evaluates trends in HPV-associated cancers and HPV vaccination among adolescent girls. HPV-associated cancers include most cervical and anal cancers, and some oropharyngeal (part of the throat), vaginal, vulvar, and penile cancers.

The report shows that from 2000 through 2009, rates of new cases for HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer increased among white men and women, as did rates for anal cancer among white and black men and women. Incidence rates for cancer of the vulva increased among white and black women. Rates of cervical cancer declined among all women except American Indian/Alaska Natives. In addition, rates for new cases of cervical cancer were higher among women living in lower socioeconomic areas. Among men, rates for penile cancer were stable.

The report also showed that in 2010, fewer than half of girls ages 13 through 17 had received at least 1 dose of the HPV vaccine, and only about one-third had received all 3 recommended doses. The 3-dose coverage estimate falls well short of the US Government’s Healthy People 2020 target of 80% for girls ages 13 through 15. Girls were less likely to get all 3 doses if they lived in the South, lived below the poverty level, or were Hispanic. The authors attribute the low rates to factors that include inadequate provider recommendations, provider reimbursement concerns, and infrequent use of reminder systems.

“While this report shows that we are making progress in the fight against cancer on some fronts, we still have much work to do, particularly when it comes to preventing cancer,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD. “For example, vaccinating against HPV can prevent cervical cancer, but, tragically, far too many girls are growing into adulthood vulnerable to cervical cancer because they are not vaccinated.”

Citation: Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2009, Featuring the Burden and Trends in Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-Associated Cancers and HPV Vaccination Coverage Levels. Published early online January 7, 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. First author: Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Georgia.

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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