Cancer death rate down 26 percent since 1991

The decline has resulted in 2.3 million fewer cancer deaths, dropping from a peak of 215.1 per 100,000 people in 1991 to 158.6 per 100,000 people in 2015.
By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 4, 2018 at 12:57 PM
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Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The cancer death rate has declined 26 percent since 1991 in the United States, according to an annual report by the American Cancer Society.

The decline has resulted in 2.3 million fewer cancer deaths from a peak of 215.1 per 100,000 people in 1991 to 158.6 per 100,000 in 2015, according to Cancer Facts and Figures 2018, published Thursday in the journal CA. The decline was broken down to 1.6 million fewer deaths of men and 739,000 million fewer deaths of women.

The report estimates that this year there will be 1.7 million new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States. That amounts to 4,700 new diagnoses each day.

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This new report reiterates where cancer control efforts have worked, particularly the impact of tobacco control," Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, said in a press release. "A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates. Strikingly though, tobacco remains by far the leading cause of cancer deaths today, responsible for nearly three in 10 cancer deaths."

For the report, researchers analyzed mortality data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics and incidence rates from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, the National Program of Cancer Registries and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Death rates have declined in the four major cancer types. Lung cancer declined 45 percent from 1990 to 2015 among men and 19 percent from 2002 to 2015 among women. Female breast cancer is 39 percent lower from 1989 to 2015. Also prostate cancer is down 52 percent from 1993 to 2015 and colorectal has declined 52 percent from 1970 to 2015.

Among men, prostate, lung, and colorectal cancers account for 42 percent of cases. Prostate cancer alone accounts for one in five diagnoses.

Among women, breast, lung and colorectal cancers total half of all cases. Breast cancer alone represents 30 percent of all new cancer diagnoses in women.

In 2015, the cancer death rate was 14 percent higher in non-Hispanic blacks than in non-Hispanic whites, down from a peak of 33 percent higher in 1993. Mortality rates remain 31 percent higher in blacks than in whites under 65.

The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.7 percent for men compared with 37.6 for women.

"While the racial gap in cancer mortality continues to narrow, this progress primarily reflects older age groups, masking stark persistent inequalities for young and middle-aged black Americans," researchers write in the report.

In 13 states, the death rates were not statistically significantly different between whites and blacks.

Lung cancer rates in Kentucky, where smoking prevalence is higher, are about 3.5 times higher than those in Utah, where smoking is lowest

"Advancing the fight against cancer for all citizens requires broader application of existing cancer control knowledge, including smoking cessation and the increased uptake of cancer-preventing cervical and colorectal cancer screening and HPV vaccination, across all segments of the population, with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups," researchers conclude in the report.

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