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Cancer Death Rates Decline by 20 Percent Over Last 20 Years

Jan 08, 2014 09:54 AM EST
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For those living in the United States, the death rate from cancer for men and women combined has dropped 20 percent in the last two decades, the annual cancer statistics report from the American Cancer Society found.

Each year, the ACS estimates the number of new cancer cases and deaths in the upcoming year, in addition to compiling the most recent cancer data from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Their report shows that between 2006-2010, cancer incidence rates fell by 0.6 percent per year in men but remained stagnant in women. Meanwhile, death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in men and 1.4 percent per year in women. The combined cancer death rate has continuously declined for two decades now, dropping 20 percent from its peak of 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 171.8 per 100,000 in 2010. In all, an estimated 1,340,400 cancer deaths - 952,700 for men and 387,700 for women - are believed to have been avoided during these years.

Major factors in all of this were age, sex and race. White women aged 80 years and older saw no decline in death rates from 1991-2010, while black men from 40-49 years old experienced a 55 percent decline. In fact, black men experienced the largest drop within every 10-year age group.

Despite this progress, black men still have the highest cancer incidence death rate, which is about twice that of Asian Americans, who have the lowest rates.

"The halving of the risk of cancer death among middle aged black men in just two decades is extraordinary," said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the ACS. "But it is immediately tempered by the knowledge that death rates are still higher among black men than white men for nearly every major cancer and for all cancers combined."

The researchers estimate there will be an estimated 1,655,540 new cancer cases and 585,720 cancer deaths before the year is out. Lung, colon, prostate and breast cancers are the most common causes of cancer death. Together they account for nearly half of all cancer deaths among men and women, with a little more than 25 percent due to lung cancer alone.

"The progress we are seeing is good," Seffrin said, "even remarkable, but we can and must do even better."

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