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Overall cancer death rates falling in U.S., NIH reports

By
Tauren Dyson
Researchers say that lifestyle changes and preventative screenings could be the reason for the overall lower cancer rates and deaths. File Photo by Mary Rice/Shutterstoc
Researchers say that lifestyle changes and preventative screenings could be the reason for the overall lower cancer rates and deaths. File Photo by Mary Rice/Shutterstoc

May 30 (UPI) -- Overall cancer death rates in the United States continue to fall, while cases of certain forms of the disease continue to climb, new findings show.

Each year, cancer death rates among men and women between ages 20 and 49 fell by 1.8 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively, according to a report published Thursday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

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"We are encouraged by the fact that this year's report continues to show declining cancer mortality for men, women, and children, as well as other indicators of progress," Betsy A. Kohler, executive director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and an author on the report, said in a news release. "There are also several findings that highlight the importance of continued research and cancer prevention efforts."

The annual report was brought together by the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

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Between 2011 and 2015, the report showed that incidences of cancer went down by 0.7 percent for men and increased 1.3 percent for women each year. From 2012 to 2016, the average annual cancer death rate for every 100,000 people was 22.8 for men and 27.1 for women.

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That led to declines in death rates of 2.3 percent among men compared to 1.7 percent for women per year.

For women, breast cancer far outpaced all other cancers, with thyroid and melanoma of the skin following. The most common cancers for men were colon and rectum, testis and melanoma of the skin.

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However, melanoma death rates fell each year by 8.5 percent for men and 6.3 percent for women, between 2014 and 2016.

Rates of cancer incidence in men declined for 10 of the 19 most common cancers, although the rates for six cancers ticked up. The sharpest increases were for liver cancer, oral cavity and pharynx cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer.

For women, cancer incidences rates went down for 13 of the 20 most common cancers, including the 3 most common cancers such as lung and bronchus, breast, and colorectal. Yet, the incidences of five cancer types climbed, including uterus and liver cancer.

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These lower rates come years after deaths either remained stable or climbed among men and women. Between 1999 and 2008, cancer death rates rose among men. And from 1999 to 2015, those numbers were static in women.

While researchers call these overall cancer declines promising, disparities in cancer rates still mark various groups. For example, black men and black women had the highest cancer death rates for roughly half of the most common cancers. Hispanic men and women had lower cancer rates than all non-Hispanic people.

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The researchers note that lifestyle changes and preventative screenings could be the reason for the overall lower rates in cancer during the study period.

"Major declines overall in cancer mortality point in the right direction, yet significant differences remain in cancer cases and deaths based on gender, ethnicity, and race," said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield. "A better understanding of these discrepancies improves cancer diagnosis and recovery for all patients and is vital to our public health mission."

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