American Cancer Society Sets Goal to Reduce US Cancer Death Rates 40% by 2035

This is the 7th article from the American Cancer Society (ACS) National Cancer Control Blueprint— a series of papers published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The goal of this blueprint is to outline the ACS vision to create a cancer control plan that will reduce cancer deaths in the United States.

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The recommended ways to reduce the cancer death rate in the US by 2035 can be summed up like this: Eat less meat, eat more plants, don’t smoke, reduce other risk factors for cancer, and follow cancer screening guidelines. But getting these key messages out will take much commitment and effort.


If people didn’t smoke, ate less meat and more fruits and vegetables, exercised more, and followed cancer screening guidelines, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates its new challenge goal of reducing cancer death rates in the United States 40% by 2035 could be achieved. Achieving this goal could lead to 1.3 million fewer cancer deaths from 2020 to 2035, according to ACS researchers.  But getting these key messages out to every American — regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic group, and geographic location — will take a lot of commitment and effort. Health care providers and professionals, health policy makers, government and community leaders, and other agencies must work together to help meet the 2035 goals.

Researchers published their projections and strategies in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal of the ACS. This article is part of the ACS National Cancer Control Blueprint series.

A Pathway to Reach the Goal

College graduates have fewer risk factors for cancer than those without a college education. This has led to a more significant decline in cancer death rates among them compared to cancer death rates in the overall population, according to Jiemin Ma, PhD, a senior principal scientist with the American Cancer Society (ACS) surveillance and health services research program and lead author of the report. 

But even college graduates — along with all Americans — can further lower their cancer death rates by reducing the cancer risk factors they can control and by following screening guidelines, Ma said.

A “challenge goal” gives everyone working to control cancer the same target to aim for and ways to measure progress toward the goal. Once the goal is set, healthcare experts, cancer agencies, research facilities, health policy and public health experts, and others, can develop a plan to reach the goal.

The study authors note that the greatest payoff in terms of preventing cancer deaths would come through continued work on reducing tobacco use and controlling obesity. Tackling the obesity problem will require that many people commit to making major lifestyle changes, similar to the commitment many Americans have made to quit smoking since the mid-1960s, Ma explains. (See the ACS Guidelines for Nutrition and Physical Activity for details and tips.) 

Another key component to achieving the goal of a 40% reduction in cancer death rates by 2035 is for every American to have access to and be able to use the same high-quality health care — for prevention and treatment — no matter where they live.

What It Will Take

Meeting the goal will require coordinated efforts by community organizations, health policy makers, and government officials, Ma said.

“Doctors and other health care experts have a critical role, too, because research has shown they positively influence people to take preventive actions and get screened,” Ma said. “All of us — the ACS Board and staff scientists — hope that this challenge goal will motivate Americans and US institutions to intensify their efforts to prevent and control cancer.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) National Cancer Control Blueprint is a series of papers published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The goal of these papers is to describe evidence that will support creating a cancer control plan for the United States and putting the plan into action. This is the seventh story on about the ACS Blueprint. The first story was about the blueprint’s goals. The second was about how well cancer control is working in the US. The third was about controlling risk factors to help prevent cancer. The fourth covered the needs of cancer survivors and their caregivers. The fifth was about cancer screening. The sixth focused on the role of cancer care systems.