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Cancer Death Rates Continue to Decline, According to a New Report

Friday, March 31, 2017

Status of CancerOverall cancer death rates continue to decrease in men, women, and children for all major racial and ethnic groups, per the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2014.

The report shows that, between 2010 and 2014, death rates decreased for 11 of the 16 most common types of cancer in men, and for 13 of the 18 most common types of cancer in women, including lung, colorectal, female breast, and prostate cancers. However, death rates did increase for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and brain in men, and for liver and uterine cancer in women.

In addition, the report shows overall cancer incidence rates, or rates of new cancer diagnoses, decreased in men but stayed the same in women between 1999 and 2013.

“The continued drops in overall cancer death rates in the United States are welcome news, reflecting improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment,” says Betsy A. Kohler, MPH, CTR, executive director of North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. “But this report also shows us that progress has been limited for several cancers, which should compel us to renew our commitment to efforts to discover new strategies for prevention, early detection, and treatment, and to apply proven interventions broadly and equitably.”

Significant Improvements in Survival

Another point of good news found in the report is that several cancer types showed a significant improvement in survival over time for both early- and late-stage disease. Compared to cancer diagnoses from 1975 to 1977, five-year survival for cancers diagnosed from 2006 to 2012 increased significantly for all but two types of cancer: cervix and uterus. The greatest increases in survival (25 percent or greater) were seen in prostate cancer, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia.

“While trends in death rates are the most commonly used measure to assess progress against cancer, survival trends are also an important measure to evaluate progress in improvement of cancer outcomes,” says Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, of the American Cancer Society and lead author of the study. “[We found that] survival improved over time for almost all cancers at every stage of diagnosis. But survival remains very low for some types of cancer and for most types of cancers diagnosed at an advanced stage.”

Cancers with the lowest five-year relative survival were:

Those with the highest five-year relative survival were:

What the Experts Say About Racial Disparities in Cancer Survival

“While this report found that five-year survival for most types of cancer improved among both blacks and whites over the past several decades, racial disparities for many common cancers have persisted, and they may have increased for prostate cancer and female breast cancer,” says Lynne T. Penberthy, MD, MPH, associate director of NCI’s Surveillance Research Program. “We still have a lot of work to do to understand the causes of these differences, but certainly differences in the kinds and timing of recommended treatments are likely to play a role.”

About Tobacco Use and the Obesity Epidemic

“This report found that tobacco-related cancers have low survival rates, which underscores the importance of continuing to do what we know works to significantly reduce tobacco use,” says Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH., director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “In addition, every state in the nation has an adult obesity prevalence of 20 percent or more. With obesity as a risk factor for cancer, we need to continue to support communities and families in prevention approaches that can help reverse the nation’s obesity epidemic. We need to come together to create interventions aimed at increasing the uptake of recommended, effective cancer screening tests and access to timely cancer care.”

The Report to the Nation is released each year by the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.