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Risk of Having, Dying From Cancer Falling

Annual Status Report Shows Improvement in Cancer Survival, Prevention

WebMD Health News

June 3, 2004 -- The chances of Americans getting or dying from most types of cancer have dropped in recent years thanks to advances in prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancer, according a new report.

But researchers say not everyone is benefiting equally from these cancer survival advances. Nearly every ethnic and racial group faces a higher risk of cancer death than whites, according to the report.

The annual cancer status report released today shows overall cancer rates dropped by 0.5% per year from 1991 to 2001, and death rates from all cancers fell 1.1% per year from 1993 to 2001. In addition, the percentage of cancer patients who survived more than five years after their initial diagnosis has increased over the last two decades.

Researchers say one of the most notable findings of the report is that lung cancer rates among women appear to be leveling off after increasing for many decades. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women.

"This new report clearly shows we've made considerable gains in reducing the burden of cancer in the United States," says John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, in a news release. "The first ever drop in lung cancer incidence rates in women is remarkable proof that we are making a difference in the number one cancer killer."

Cancer Status Report Shows Progress

The annual cancer status report appears in the current issue of Cancer and is a collaborative effort from the American Cancer Society, the CDC, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The report provides updated information on cancer rates and trends in the U.S.

This year's report also highlights trends in cancer survival and compared the five-year survival rates of cancer patients who were diagnosed in 1975-1979 and 1995-2000. Researchers found survival rates improved substantially for most of the top 15 cancers in men and women. Gains of more than 10% in survival were seen in cancers of the colon, kidney, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma among both men and women as well as prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.

But some of the largest gains were in childhood cancer survival.

The report shows that survival rates for childhood cancers increased by 20% in boys and 13% in girls. More than 75% of childhood cancer patients currently survive at least five years beyond their diagnosis compared with dismal survival rates in the 1960s when childhood cancers were nearly always fatal.

Overall, researchers found that death rates from all cancers combined have been decreasing since the early 1990s. Death rates decreased for 11 of the top 15 cancers among men and eight of the top 15 cancers in women.

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