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CDC: U.S. cancer deaths continue decade-long decline

Though an increase in death from liver cancer is concerning, the agency said.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 9, 2016 at 2:24 PM

ATLANTA, March 9 (UPI) -- The number of people dying from cancer in the United States continued a nearly decade-long decline, while the number of diagnoses in men also declined and in women remained stable, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Wednesday.

The cancer death rate continued an overall decline that includes men and women in all major racial and ethnic groups, but the agency placed particular significance on death rates and diagnoses from liver cancer, both of which were found to have increased strikingly.

The report echoes one put out earlier this year by the American Cancer Society that found cancer deaths in the United States have dropped by 25 percent since 1991. Data from the ACS study was included in the CDC report, as was data collected by the National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Researchers point to improvements in prevention and early detection of cancer, as well as better treatments. Decreasing rates of smoking have also contributed, they say, as rates of lung cancer death have dropped, in addition to other forms of the disease made worse by cigarettes.

"Research over the past decades has led to the development of several vaccines that, given at the appropriate ages, can reduce the risk of some cancers, including liver cancer," Dr. Douglas Lowy, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, said in a press release. "Determining which cancers can be effectively prevented by vaccines and other methods is one of our top priorities at NCI and one which we believe will truly make a difference in cancer incidence and mortality trends."

In the new report, published in the journal Cancer, researchers found cancer death declined by 1.5 percent per year from 2003 to 2012. For men, rates of death from nearly all rates of cancer went down, except for cancers of the liver, pancreas and of soft tissue, such as the heart. Women saw similar declines, with cancer of the pancreas, uterus and liver the only types to increase.

The rate of cancer incidence also fell for both men and women, though more for men than for women, continuing the declining trend.

CDC researchers focus on rising rates of liver cancer in the United States, finding it increased by 7.4 cases per 100,000 people from 2008 to 2012, a 2.3 percent increase. The death rate increased by about 2.8 percent per year since 2008 among men, and by 3.4 percent per year among women.

The highest rates of Hepatitis C, which can lead to liver cancer, and liver cancer-associated deaths were among people born between 1945 and 1965. Men are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with liver cancer, with rates highest among non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native men.

The researchers say testing and treatment for hepatitis C, hepatitis B vaccination and lowering obesity can be used to reduce liver cancer rates, but awareness is lacking.

"The latest data show many cancer prevention programs are working and saving lives," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. "But the growing burden of liver cancer is troublesome. We need to do more work promoting hepatitis testing, treatment, and vaccination."

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