Cancer Deaths in Men Decline for First Time
March 23, 2000 (Atlanta) -- After more than 70 years of increases, the
number of overall deaths in men from cancer has declined for the first time,
according to the annual cancer statistic update by the American Cancer Society
(ACS). But not all the numbers are good, especially for women and
The age-adjusted rate of cancer has been going down since it peaked in 1991,
but the actual number of deaths had never decreased. According to the ACS info,
however, 788 fewer men died from cancer in 1997, the most recent year for which
data are available, compared to 1996.
In an editorial published regarding the statistics, ACS CEO John Seffrin,
PhD, writes, "Today, it is not a question of whether we will control
cancer, but rather when and how quickly."
In light of the fact that the population is burgeoning with aging people,
the dip is impressive, according to ACS spokesperson Joann Schellenbach. Recent
downturns in each of the top three causes of cancer death among men -- lung,
prostate, and colon and rectum cancers -- account for the change.
Even though some of the numbers of people dying from cancer are going down,
and the rates are dropping, "When you look at the estimates for numbers of
cases, that seems to be going up," Schellenbach tells WebMD. "People
say that doesn't make any sense. Well, the way we explain that is the
demographics of the United States -- population shifts to older and older
Because of this change in demographics, one in two men and one in three
women will get invasive cancer in their lifetime, says Schellenbach. "Close
to 60% of people who get cancer show good survival rates at five years, but
that means 40% of the people die. So if the number of people dying is dropping
while the number of people getting it is going up, that's pretty
impressive," she tells WebMD.
"It's definitely overall good news," she says. As always, though,
there is a "but." "But, of course, if you start to separate that
out into racial groups, it's obviously not the same story for everyone,"
Schellenbach says. Blacks, on the whole, have the highest cancer incidence
rates, and they are about 60% more likely to develop a cancer than are
Hispanics or Asian/Pacific Islanders. Overall, African-Americans are 33% more
likely to die of cancer than are whites.
Although white women develop breast cancer more frequently than women of
other racial or ethnic groups, black women are still most likely to die of the
disease. For women overall, the number who die of cancer continues to rise
slightly, primarily due to the consistent rise in deaths among women due to
lung cancer. Breast and colorectal cancer deaths among women are dropping.