March 27, 2019

U.S. cancer death rate hits milestone: Twenty-five years of decline

11 January 2019, 08:44 | Randall Craig

U.S. cancer death rate hits milestone – but it's not all good news

Colorectal cancer endangers more 20-to-30-year-olds: study - Xinhua |

The overall cancer death rate decreased continuously by 27 percent from 1991 to 2016, according to a report published online January 8 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The American Cancer Society published a report showing that cancer remains the nation's No. 2 killer.

A steady, 25-year decline has resulted in a 27% drop in the overall cancer death rate in the United States, translating to approximately 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths between 1991 and 2016. Lung cancer is one of the most lethal diseases in men and women, along with colorectal cancer.

Between 1991 and 2016, deaths from cancer dropped 27 percent. They found the cancer incidence rate was stable in women from 2006 to 2015 and declined about 2 percent per year in men; from 2007 to 2016, the cancer death rate decreased annually by 1.4 and 1.8 percent, respectively.

The study also tracked the cancer mortality rates based on various factors including wealth and race. For example, in the early 1970s, colon cancer death rates were 20 percent lower in poor counties, and today they are 35 percent higher, when compared with people living in richer counties, Siegel said. So while the PSA testing may have surfaced cases that didn't actually need treatment, it may also have prevented some cancer deaths, the report suggests.

Cancer is the second most common cause of death among children ages 1 to 14 years in the United States, after accidents. That corresponds to more than 4,800 new cases and nearly 1,700 deaths per day, according to the study.

The new study does a "very good job" summarizing those trends, said Dr. Walter Curran, executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.

Yet "it gives us a touch point on what's going on in cancer in the United States, because if we don't know what the trends are and the populations that are most burdened by the disease, then we can't do anything about it", Siegel said.

Still, the decline in cancer-related mortality does not affect the entire American population equally.

"The largest gaps are for the most preventable cancers", she said. "We must work to ensure every patient has access to cancer care that reflects their individual needs as well as the opportunity to participate in research and contribute to progress".

The study authors also said that cases of melanoma have been increasing, as well as cases of liver, thyroid, uterine and pancreatic cancer. "Getting to the oncologist often takes longer and options may be more limited", he said.

Meanwhile, some cancers that have been linked to obesity, including liver and pancreatic, showed signs of an increase. "So it's a multi-factorial issue that we view as a real critical issue in the cancer world right now".

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