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Cancer Society Reports 22% Drop in Mortality Over Two Decades

More than 1.5 million cancer deaths averted

The American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual cancer statistics report finds that a 22% drop in cancer mortality over two decades has led to the avoidance of more than 1.5 million cancer deaths that would have occurred if peak rates had persisted.

Each year, the ACS compiles the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival based on incidence data from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and on mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The data will be published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and in its companion publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2015.

Largely driven by increases in lung cancer deaths among men as a consequence of the tobacco epidemic, the overall cancer death rate rose during most of the 20th century, peaking in 1991, the report says. The subsequent decline in the cancer death rate is the result of fewer Americans smoking, as well as advances in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment.

Other key findings include:

  • During the most recent 5 years for which data were available (2007–2011), the average annual decline in cancer death rates was slightly larger among men (1.8%) than among women (1.4%). These declines were driven by continued decreases in death rates for the four major cancer sites: lung, breast, prostate, and colon.
  • Lung cancer death rates declined by 36% between 1990 and 2011 among males and by 11% between 2002 and 2011 among females because of reduced tobacco use.
  • Death rates for breast cancer (among women) are down more than one-third (35%) from peak rates, whereas prostate and colorectal cancer death rates are each down by nearly half (47%).

In addition, the report estimates that 1,658,370 new cancer cases and 589,430 cancer deaths (about 1,600 per day) will occur in the U.S. in 2015.

Prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers will account for about one-half of all cases in men, with prostate cancer alone accounting for about one-quarter of new diagnoses.

The three most commonly diagnosed types of cancer among women in 2015 will be breast, lung, and colorectal cancer, accounting for one-half of all cases in women. Breast cancer alone is expected to account for 29% of all new cancers among women in the U.S.

The most common causes of cancer death are lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer in men and lung, breast, and colorectal cancer in women. These four cancers account for almost one-half of all cancer deaths, with more than one-quarter (27%) of all cancer deaths due to lung cancer.

The report also finds that, during the past 5 years for which data were available (2007–2011), the overall cancer incidence rate remained stable in women and declined by 1.8% per year in men. The decrease in incidence in men was driven by rapid declines in colorectal (3.6% per year), lung (3.0% per year), and prostate (2.1% per year) cancers.

Although women in the U.S. have experienced similar drops in colorectal and lung cancer, breast cancer incidence rates have flattened, the report says. Moreover, there has been a dramatic rise in thyroid cancer incidence rates among women (an average of 4.5% per year from 2007 to 2011).

Source: ACS; December 30, 2014.

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