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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Deaths Continue to Drop

Steepest Decline Seen in Colorectal Cancer

Lung Cancer Deaths continued...

Although more men than women still die of lung cancer, lung cancer death rates have been dropping steadily among men while they have been increasing among women.

This upward trend has slowed dramatically over the past few years, however, and now shows signs of stabilizing.

“It looks as if we may have reached a plateau,” ACS Director of Surveillance Research Elizabeth Ward, PhD, tells WebMD. “We are hopeful that we will see declines in lung cancer deaths among women over the next few years, but we aren’t quite there yet.”

Declines in lung cancer deaths among men are also projected to continue as smoking rates continue to drop.

Breast Cancer Deaths

Deaths from breast cancer have dropped an average of 2% a year since 1990.

Breast cancer incidence rates also dropped significantly between 2001 and 2004, with a widely reported single-year decrease of nearly 7% between 2002 and 2003 thought to be due to declines in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) usage.

The average drop in incidence was 3.5% per year from 2001 to 2004.

Mammography screening has played a big part in the drop in breast cancer deaths, but screening rates have begun to decline slightly despite a federal program making mammograms available to uninsured women, Ward says.

About 75% of women who should get mammograms are being screened, she says.

“Screening rates are much lower for uninsured women and recent immigrants,” Ward says. “Certainly this is an area where improvement is needed.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives

A special feature of the report highlighted cancer incidence and death trends among two medically underserved groups in the United States: American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Poverty rates are roughly three times higher among these populations than among non-Hispanic whites, and health coverage rates for adults are roughly half that of whites.

As a result, these populations were less likely to have highly treatable malignancies like colorectal and breast cancers detected in the early stages.

Lung and colorectal cancer rates were also significantly higher among Northern Plains and Alaska Natives than among non-Hispanic whites.

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