Cancer group finds biggest one-year drop in U.S. death rate

Henrietta Brewer
January 9, 2020

Lung cancer accounts for almost a quarter of all cancer deaths, according to the lead author of the report, Rebecca Siegel. Lung cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease.

In New York, expect to see 117,910 new cancer cases this year, including 17,540 cases of female breast cancer, 11,470 of prostate cancer and 13,370 lung and bronchus cancer cases. A main driver of the decline overall, according to the report in the latest edition of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, is a marked decrease in recent years in the mortality rate for lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths.

The 29 percent decrease between 1991 and 2017 represents about 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths than would have occurred if rates had remained at their peak. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette use - responsible for about one-third of cancer deaths in the country - reached the lowest levels ever recorded among US adults in 2017. However, progress in reducing colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers has slowed. Between 2008 and 2013 there was a 3% reduction per year, but between 2013 and 2017 there was a 5% reduction in mortality per year in men.

The number of new cases of breast cancer has climbed by about 0.3 per cent per year since 2004, a rise linked in part to lower rates of fertility and increases in obesity.

The most rapid declines - for melanoma skin cancer - followed approval of breakthrough treatments in 2011 that boosted one-year survival of advanced melanoma from 42 percent in 2008-2010 to 55 percent in 2013-2015.

The odds of being diagnosed with an invasive cancer during a lifetime is now 40.1% for men and 38.7% for women, according to the report.

The overall cancer incidence rate in men declined rapidly from 2007 to 2014, but stabilized through 2016, reflecting slowing declines for colorectal cancer and stabilizing rates for prostate cancer. In a statement shared with Yahoo Lifestyle, Mark Awad, clinical director for the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said that the report should give Americans reason to hope. These, together with lung cancer, are the four most common cancer types. Scientists have also made huge progress in treating various cancers using immunotherapy, a treatment that involves redirecting an individual's own immune cells to kill tumors. In the meantime, American Association for Cancer Research President Elaine Mardis says: "This is still an area where we don't really understand the impact on cancer from that particular form of taking in nicotine".

"Less than 5 percent of patients in the USA actually get screened for lung cancer appropriately", Awad said.

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