Cancer prevention efforts, early detection and treatment saved 1.3 million American lives over almost two decades as the cancer death rate fell by 20%.
The data comes from American Cancer society’s annual report on how many people have died from cancer and will be diagnosed in the coming year. The latest report reviewed incidence, mortality and survival rates between 1991 and 2010, the most recent year statistics were available.
1991 appears to be a turning point for the cancer death rate, which peaked that year after increasing through much of the 20th Century. Since 1991, the cancer death rate has declined steadily. Changing attitudes toward smoking and using other tobacco products have a significant role. Tobacco use among men with lung cancer fueled much of the early increase in the cancer death rate in the 1900s.
“It is quite clear that multiple approaches to the overall cancer program, including education, prevention, screening and increasingly effective therapies are having a substantial favorable impact on cancer mortality,” says Dr. Maurie Markman, Senior Vice President of Clinical Affairs and National Director of Medical Oncology at CTCA.
“It can be anticipated with our rapidly advancing knowledge of the molecular basis of individual cancers we will continue to see important advances in improving cancer-associated outcomes,” Dr. Markman adds.
Even with the recent progress, lung cancer continues to be one of the deadliest cancers in the United States. More than 25% of cancer deaths are due to lung cancer. Lung, colon, prostate and breast cancers make up almost half of all cancer deaths among men and women.
One of the highlights of the annual report: a 50% decrease in the cancer death rate among middle-age black men, which mainly occurred because of lower smoking rates. Even with the decline, the sheer number of black men who are diagnosed with cancer and die from it is higher than among whites or Asian Americans.
This year, doctors will diagnose an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer and more than 585,000 Americans will die from the disease. Here are other key points from the report:
- New cancer diagnoses declined 0.6% among men between 2006 and 2010.
- New cases among women were unchanged during the same five-year period.
- Cancer deaths fell 1.8% per year among men and 1.4% per year among women from 2006 to 2010.
- Deaths due to breast cancer have not decreased much since 2003.
- Breast cancer cases will represent an estimated 29% of cancer diagnoses among women in 2014.
- New colon cancer cases fell by more than 4% per year from 2008 to 2010, as more people had colonoscopies to detect the disease early.
- The lung cancer death rate among males declined 34% between 1991 and 2010.
- Among women, lung cancer deaths dropped 9% between 2002 and 2010.
Watch The Anatomy of Cancer video to learn more about cancer and how it’s treated.