A recent study presented by the American Cancer Society Cancer indicates that death rates from cancer in the United States have declined steadily over the past 25 years. Since 1991, death rates from cancer has fallen 25 percent thanks to improved screening guidelines and falling smoking rates, among other factors. The report further states that 2.1 million cancer deaths are avoided.
“The drop in cancer mortality is primarily the result of large declines in the four major causes of cancer death — lung, colorectal, breast and prostate — which account for almost half of all cancer deaths,” noted Rebecca Siegel, report author and Strategic Director for Surveillance and Health Services Research for the American Cancer Society. “This progress is driven by declines in smoking prevalence beginning in the 1960s, and improvements in the early detection of cancer and cancer treatment,” Siegel explained.
But not every segment of the population is benefiting equally. While men’s overall risk for cancer has fallen, they continue to be diagnosed with and die from cancer when compared to women. The rate for diagnosis and death for women remains steady and unchanged over the period. The decrease in cancer death rates among men is attributed to the decline in prostate, lung and colorectal cancers which account for more than 40 percent of cancers diagnosed in men. The likelihood of getting the lung cancer is declining twice as fast in men as in women, according to the report.
In the “not so good news” category, rates of new cancer cases remain varied by racial and ethnic groups, with African Americans suffering the largest burden. In 2014, cancer death rates in this demographic was about 15 percent higher than that of Caucasians. As well, cancer remains the second most common cause of death in young people ages 1 to 14 years in the U.S, within this ethnic group.
“The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer’s deadly toll,” Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement. “Continuing that success will require more clinical and basic research to improve early detection and treatment, as well as strategies to increase healthy behaviors nationwide. For the decrease in cancer death rates to continue, we need to consistently apply existing knowledge in cancer control across all segments of the population, particularly to disadvantaged groups.”
The researchers estimated that there will be more than 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the U.S. in the coming year, with 4,600 new diagnoses each day and more than 600,000 cancer deaths in 2017. While progress is being made in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, researchers and oncology practitioners continue to focus on the development of innovative therapies in this fight against cancer.