The death rate from cancer in the United States is still falling among men, women, and children, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. During 2013 to 2017, cancer death rates fell an average of 1.5% per year. However, rates of new cancers diagnosed from 2012 to 2016 remained about the same in men and increased slightly among women.
Reasons for these trends reflect changes among large groups of people in cancer risk factors and screening test use, as well as how doctors diagnose cancer and treatment advances.
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 rates, death rates, and trends in the United States, plus a special section, which this year focused on progress toward Healthy People 2020 goals.
The report was published March 12, 2020 in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Cancer Society.
Among the main findings of this year’s report:
For the first time, the Annual Report to the Nation provided rates and trends for the most common cancers among children, adolescents, and young adults. Overall cancer death rates among children 14 and younger dropped an average 1.4% per year from 2013-2017. The rate of new cancers went up an average of 0.8% per year from 2012-2016. The most common cancer types among children included leukemia, lymphoma, and brain and spinal cord tumors.
The study authors say that better treatments are most likely the reason why death rates among children keep dropping. They are less certain about why rates of new cancers are going up, although part of the reason may be changes in how cancer is diagnosed and tracked.
Among teens and young adults 15 to 39 years old, cancer death rates decreased by 1% per year from 2005-2017. This continues a slowing trend, as rates decreased by 3% per year during 2001–2005. The rate of new cancers rose an average of 0.9% per year from 2012–2016. The most common cancer types in this age group were female breast, thyroid, and testicular cancer, as well as lymphoma.
The report showed an increase in colorectal cancer death rates among young adults. This increase came during a time when risk factors – including excess weight and diabetes – have increased.
The US government launched Healthy People 2020 ten years ago to improve the health of all Americans. Some of its goals include reducing cancer risk factors while increasing use of recommended screening tests. This year’s special section, published in part II of the report, Progress Toward Healthy People 2020 Objectives, checks up on progress in goals related to 4 common cancers: lung, colorectal, female breast, and prostate.
Goals for reducing deaths from cancer were met overall, but not among males, Blacks, or people who live in rural areas. However, these groups did have larger decreases in rates than other groups. During 2007–2017, cancer death rates fell 15% overall.
Measuring progress on cancer screening and risk factors:
The authors conclude that efforts to reduce cancer risk factors and promote healthy behaviors, although proven to work, are not helping every community reach Healthy People 2020 goals. They say more effort is needed to make sure all Americans can access a path to long, healthy, cancer-free lives.
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, Part I: National Cancer Statistics. Published March 12, 2020 in Cancer. First author: S. Jane Henley, MSPH. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.
Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, Part II: Progress Toward Healthy People 2020 Objectives for 4 Common Cancers. Published March 12, 2020 in Cancer. First author: S. Jane Henley, MSPH. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Ga.
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