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Report: U.S. Cancer Mortality Down 20% From 1991 Peak

American Cancer Society issues annual review (Jan. 17)

Annual statistics reporting from the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows that the death rate from cancer in the U.S. has fallen 20% from its peak in 1991. The society’s report, “Cancer Statistics 2013,” was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The ACS estimates that 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 deaths from cancer will occur in the U.S. this year. Between 1991 and 2009 — the most recent year for which data are available — overall death rates decreased by 24% in men, by 16% in women, and by 20% overall. This means that almost 1.2 million deaths from cancer were avoided during that period.

Death rates also continue to decline for lung, colon, breast, and prostate cancers, which are responsible for most cancer mortality. Since 1991, death rates have decreased by more than 40% for prostate cancer, and by more than 30% for colon cancer, breast cancer in women, and lung cancer in men. The significant drop in lung cancer is attributed to reductions in smoking, whereas the decrease in prostate, colon, and breast cancer is attributed to improvements in early detection and treatment.

Although the rates of new cancer cases are declining for most cancer sites, they are increasing among both men and women for melanoma and for cancers of the liver and thyroid.

The rates of new cancer cases and cancer deaths vary among racial and ethnic groups. For all cancer sites combined, African-American men have a 14% higher rate of new cancer cases and a 33% higher death rate compared with white men. African-American women have a 6% lower rate of new cancer cases but a 16% higher death rate compared with white women. During the past decade, however, the most rapid decline in death rates occurred among African-American men (2.4% per year) and Hispanic men (2.3% per year).

The new report calls for the application of existing knowledge about fighting cancer across all segments of the population, especially groups in the lowest socioeconomic bracket, as a way to speed progress in cancer treatment. The ACS estimates that about one-third of cancer deaths in 2013 will be caused by tobacco use and that another one-quarter to one-third will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

Source: American Cancer Society; January 17, 2013.

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