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Cancer cases to increase 8% by 2040 as screening, awareness efforts increase

Cancer diagnoses in the U.S, will rise by 2040, though deaths will decline, a new analysis finds. Photo by stux/Pixabay
Cancer diagnoses in the U.S, will rise by 2040, though deaths will decline, a new analysis finds. Photo by stux/Pixabay

April 7 (UPI) -- The annual number of cancer cases in the United States is projected to rise by 8% by 2040, at least partially because of increased screening, even as annual deaths from the disease drop by nearly 25% over the same period, according to an analysis published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open.

More than 1.88 million people will be diagnosed with cancer nationally each year by 2040, up from less than 1.74 million in 2020, the researchers, from the advocacy group Cancer Commons and the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said.

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However, deaths from all forms of cancer will decline by about 23% -- to 410,000 from 568,000 per year -- over the same period, they said.

Improved cancer screening as well as the availability of new treatments for certain forms of the disease are driving these trends, according to the researchers.

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"In the next two decades, rankings of incidence and death across cancer types will undergo important changes in the U.S.," study co-author Lola Rahib told UPI via email.

"We associated these findings to cancer screening programs and we highlight the disparity of care in both screening and treatment," said Rahib, a scientist with Cancer Commons, a research and advocacy organization based in Mountain View, Calif.

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Much of the rise in cancer diagnoses will be fueled by breast cancer, which will see an increase to 364,000 by 2040 from 272,000 yearly in 2020, while deaths attributed to the disease will fall 25% to 30,000 from 40,000 over the same period, the researchers said.

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Also by 2040, the number of people diagnosed annually with melanoma is expected to more than double to just over 219,000 from 101,000 in 2020 and make it the second-most common cancer nationally.

Annual lung cancer cases will drop by about 3%, to 208,000 from 215,000 per year during the next 20 years, but the disease will remain the deadliest form of cancer across the country.

This is despite the fact that lung cancer deaths are projected to fall to 63,000 from more than 130,000 each year during that period, the researchers said.

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Deaths from all types of cancer -- except for pancreatic, liver and bile duct, brain and central nervous system and uterine cancer -- are expected to fall, they said.

To achieve some of the same results seen in breast, lung and prostate cancers, these forms of the disease will need to become the focus of new treatment research efforts and awareness campaigns, according to the researchers.

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Rahib and her colleagues calculated their estimates based on current cancer case and death statistics in the United States and population growth projections for the country, using U.S. Census Bureau data.

Despite negative trends for breast cancer and melanoma cases, and mixed results for lung cancer, Rahib and her colleagues expect prostate cancer diagnoses nationally to fall significantly, to 66,000 per year from 175,000 in 2020.

However, deaths from the disease will drop by only about 10% -- to 26,000 from 29,000 per year in 2020 -- over the same period, the data showed.

Although cases of colon and rectal cancers nationally are expected to remain relatively flat between now and 2040, kidney, liver, oral, pancreatic, thyroid and uterine cancer, as well as leukemia diagnoses, are projected to rise by more than 60% over the same period.

Additionally, annual numbers of urinary and bladder cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases will grow by an estimated 25% by 2040.

"Although death rates will decline for the majority of cancer types, a significant increase in deaths from pancreatic and liver cancers is [projected] to continue," Rahib said.

"The increase in pancreatic cancer deaths arises from [the fact it] is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage, when surgery is not possible, there are no standard screening tools and treatments are limited," she said.

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