News: Cancer Deaths in America Are Declining

News: Cancer Deaths in America Are Declining

Early diagnoses and a decrease in smoking have contributed to lower cancer incidence and mortality rates.

The number of people diagnosed with—and dying from—cancer is declining, according to a new report published in the journal Cancer. Published annually by the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the report stated that cancer-related death rates have decreased in both men and women.

Decrease in diagnoses
Between 1999 and 2014, new cancer diagnoses have decreased for men by 2.2 percent per year on average, but remained stable in women, due to the increased incidence rate of breast cancer cases. While the breast cancer incidence rate did increase, the mortality rate was down during the same time period.

The cancer incidence rate has gone down for seven of the 18 most common cancer types among women and seven of the 17 most common cancer types among men. New cases of cancer declined by an average of 1 percent per year between 2010 and 2014, when 453.8 new cases of cancer were diagnosed for every 100,000 people each year, on average.

The most common cancers in the United States were female breast, lung, prostate, colorectal and melanoma of the skin.

Decline in deaths
From 2011 to 2015, 163.5 cancer-related deaths occurred for every 100,000 adults per year in the United States. Mortality rates have decreased 1.4 percent in women, while cancer deaths in men decreased by 1.8 percent between 1999 and 2015.

During the same time period, eleven of the 18 most common cancers in men showed a decrease in mortality:

  • Cancer of the lung
  • Melanoma of the skin
  • Larynx
  • Colon and rectum
  • Prostate
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Stomach
  • Esophagus
  • Myeloma
  • Kidney

Women saw a decrease in mortalities in 14 of the 20 most common types of cancer:

  • Colon and rectum
  • Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Melanoma of the skin
  • Lung
  • Ovary
  • Leukemia
  • Stomach
  • Breast
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney
  • Oral cavity and pharynx
  • Gallbladder
  • Cervix
  • Bladder

Cancers in men that saw an increase in mortality rates included non-melanoma cancers of the skin, liver cancer, cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, soft tissue cancers, brain and nervous system cancers and pancreatic cancer.

Women saw an increase in mortality rates for cancers of the liver, uterus, brain and nervous system and pancreas.

Why they’re dropping
The decline in cancer mortality has been credited to a variety of reasons, including earlier diagnoses and improved treatments, as well as a decrease in smoking. The habit causes 90 percent of all lung cancer deaths, and more women die from lung cancer than breast cancer. In the United States, 25 percent of cancer deaths are still caused by smoking. When people stop smoking, they reduce the risk of several types of cancers, including lung and colorectal.

Five-year survival rates
Early detection is crucial in certain cancers, according to the data provided regarding five-year survival rates. The study found that between 2007-2013, early-stage breast cancer, colorectal cancer and melanoma had high five-year survival rates by the stage of the cancer when diagnosed.

Stage I breast cancer had a five-year survival rate of 100 percent, and stage I colorectal cancer’s survival rage was 88.1 percent. Breast cancer’s survival rate dropped to 26.5 percent for stage IV, and colorectal cancer’s rate dropped to 12.6 percent for stage IV.

Survival rate for lung cancer, however, ranged from a 55 percent rate for stage I to 4 percent for stage IV. A large disparity was seen in melanoma, which had a 99.5 percent survival rate for stage I, but a 16 percent survival rate for stage IV.

Prostate cancer
A companion study reported that mortality rates of prostate cancer have stabilized after 20 years of declining between 1993 and 2013. While overall incidence has decreased an average of 6.5 percent each year between 2007 and 2014, there has also been an increase in the occurrence of late-stage prostate cancer.

Based on a national survey, less men are undergoing the blood test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which some consider results in unnecessarily aggressive treatment for a cancer that typically develops slowly. Recently released guidelines from U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggest that men aged 55 to 69 make an informed decision with their doctor regarding whether to undergo a PSA screening.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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