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Annual Report: US Cancer Death Rates Still Declining

Article date: July 7, 2010

By: Rebecca V. Snowden

While cancer remains a major public health problem in the United States, cancer death rates among both men and women are continuing to decline, according to the American Cancer Society's (ACS) annual cancer statistics report, "Cancer Statistics, 2010," published in the Society's journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and its companion piece Cancer Facts & Figures 2010. Researchers credit the steady decline mainly to falling smoking rates, improved cancer treatments, and earlier detection of cancer.

Cancer death rates fell 21.0% among men and 12.3% among women during 1991 to 2006, according to the report. That translates to about 767,000 cancer deaths that have been avoided since the early 1990s, ACS researchers estimate. The number of new cancer cases is also waning – cancer incidence decreased 1.3% per year among men from 2000 to 2006 and 0.5% per year from 1998 to 2006 among women.

“This report is yet more proof we are creating a world with more birthdays,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

“We will build on our progress in the fight against cancer through laws and policies that increase access to cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment services, and with a sustained federal investment in research designed to find breakthroughs in the prevention and treatment of the most deadly forms of cancer,” said Seffrin.

Where we are now

ACS researchers estimate that there will be 1,529,560 new cancer cases and 569,490 deaths from cancer in 2010. Prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers will account for just over half of all new cancer diagnoses among men; in women, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers will account for about half of new cancer cases. Together, these 4 cancers account for half of all cancer deaths among men and women.

Even so, the report shows that among men, decreases in deaths from lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer account for approximately 80% of the declining death rate, while decreases in deaths from breast and colorectal cancer made up approximately 60% of the total decrease among women. Those numbers suggest early detection – such as colonoscopy to catch colon cancer early and mammography to catch breast cancer early – and improved treatments are having an effect. Fewer men are smoking, which accounts for much of the lower death rate from lung cancer; the lung cancer death rate among women has stabilized, even though it is still the leading cause of cancer death among women.

But not everyone is benefitting equally. African-American men have a 14% higher cancer incidence rate and a 34% higher overall cancer death rate compared to white men, according to the report. African-American women are less likely than white women to get cancer, but when they do get it, they're more likely to die from it.

While there has been much progress in understanding and combating cancer, there's clearly much more work to be done.

Each year, ACS researchers include a special section in Cancer Facts & Figures highlighting an issue of cancer research or care. This year, the topic is prostate cancer – its causes, prevention, early detection, and treatment. Despite the wealth of research on prostate cancer, there is much debate and uncertainty about whether or not to screen for it and how best to treat the disease. This section provides current information for both clinicians and patients.

To read the report, visit the Society's journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.


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.

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