The latest statistics about the major cancer risk factors and screening test use in the United States are now available in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention and in the American Cancer Report Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures, 2021-2022.
An American Cancer Society (ACS) review of cancer prevention and early detection measures for 2018 and 2019 in the United States shows mixed progress. Smoking prevalence during this time was at an historic low, partly because most people who ever smoked have quit. But obesity rates remained high, and cancer screening and HPV vaccination levels were inadequate to make the desired progress toward a world without cancer. Plus, racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities persisted across most major modifiable cancer risk factors and preventive measures.
Every 2 years, researchers from the ACS analyze data from multiple national surveys to understand how many adults in the United States report behaviors that can affect their cancer risk or help find it early—because these efforts are central to reducing the cancer burden.
The current findings are published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention as well as in the ACS report Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Facts & Figures, 2021-2022. The review is one of the only sources that looks at the major modifiable cancer risk factors, in addition to HPV vaccination and cancer screening test use. All data was compiled before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the estimated 608,570 deaths from cancer expected to occur in the United States in 2021, about 45% are from potentially preventable causes such as cigarette smoking, excess body weight, alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet.
“Our snapshot of the status of cancer prevention and early detection measures was mixed,” said ACS researcher Priti Bandi, PhD, who led the study. “Overall cigarette smoking is down, but obesity remains high, and the use of cancer screening and HPV vaccination continues to be underused.” Bandi and her colleagues also found that substantial racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities persisted.
Cigarette smoking increases the risk for lung cancer, as well as about a dozen other types of cancer. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of developing all cancers caused by smoking.
Here are some of study’s key statistics from the 2018 to 2019 data for US adults.
“These data highlight the critical importance of expanding tobacco cessation coverage in state Medicaid programs,” Bandi said. The geographic disparities in the South, the authors said, were also potentially related to inequitable distribution of cessation coverage policies, as well as to health care access and evidence-based tobacco control policies.
Promoting state-level population tobacco control policies was one of the key recommendations in the study to reduce the use of tobacco and lessen disparities in smoking cessation. These policies include:
About 18% of cancer cases in the US can be attributed to a combination of excess body weight, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet, and consumption of alcohol.
Studies have demonstrated that adults who closely follow the ACS nutrition and physical activity guidelines are less likely to be diagnosed with and die from cancer than those who don’t follow them.
Here are some of review’s key statistics from the 2017 to 2019 data for adults in the US.
“It will require collaboration between communities and governments at the national, state, and local levels to take culturally appropriate efforts to reducing the cancer burden in the future,” Bandi said. The study authors recommend these actions:
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine currently used in the US has the potential to prevent about 90% of HPV-caused cancers.
Early detection of cancer through screening reduces death from breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancers. Screenings for colorectal and cervical cancer can also prevent these cancers by identifying pre-cancerous areas that can be removed.
Here are some of study’s key statistics from the 2018 to 2019 data.
To increase the number of people who receive the HPV vaccine in adolescence, the study authors recommend:
The report notes that recent healthcare reforms, including the ACA Medicaid expansions and elimination of cost-sharing for screenings, have shown promise in helping to reduce screening disparities.
“We can still make substantial progress by promoting smoking cessation among socially vulnerable populations, focusing efforts to stem the rising prevalence of obesity, and improving cancer screening and HPV vaccination levels,” Bandi said.