Annual Report to the Nation: Cancer Death Rates Continue to Drop

The death rate from cancer in the United States is continuing to decline among men, women, and children, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. It shows the rate of death from cancer in the United States is decreasing for all major racial and ethnic groups, and for the most common types of cancer, including lung, colon, breast, and prostate. However, the report identified some cancer types with increasing death rates, including liver, pancreas, and brain cancer in men, and liver and endometrial cancer in women.

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. It includes a special section, which this year focuses on survival.

“While trends in death rates are the most commonly used measure to assess progress against cancer, survival trends are also an important measure to evaluate progress in improvement of cancer outcomes,” said Ahmedin Jemal, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “We last included a special section on cancer survival in 2004, and as we found then, survival improved over time for almost all cancers at every stage of diagnosis. But survival remains very low for some types of cancer and for most types of cancers diagnosed at an advanced stage.”

The report was published March 31, 2017 in Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Among the findings:

  • Overall cancer death rates from 2010 to 2014 decreased by 1.8% per year in men, by 1.4% per year in women, and by 1.6% per year in children.
  • Cancer death rates decreased for 11 of the 16 most common cancers in men and for 13 of the 18 most common cancers in women.
  • Rates of new cancer cases decreased in men but stayed about the same for women.
  • Survival rates increased significantly for several cancer types for both early- and late-stage disease, but varied by race and ethnicity, and state.

Behind the numbers

The declining cancer death rates have resulted largely from improvements in early detection and treatment, and reductions in tobacco use. However, 40 million adult Americans still smoke, and smoking remains the leading cause of cancer death.

The study authors call for strategies to further reduce the use of tobacco, including expansions of federal and state tobacco control programs, ways to make purchasing tobacco products more expensive, and implementation of plain tobacco packaging. They also call for increased efforts to find new ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancers.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975–2014, Featuring Survival. Published March 31, 2017 in Journal of the National Cancer Institute. First author: Ahmedin Jemal, D.V.M., Ph.D. American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.

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