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Cancer Deaths Continue to Drop

Steepest Decline Seen in Colorectal Cancer

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.

In a written statement, National Cancer Institute Director John E. Niederhuber, MD, discusses the gap between more medically served and underserved populations.

“We are firmly committed to addressing cancer health disparities so that the benefits of decades of research can reach all Americans,” he writes. “The fact that lung and colorectal cancer rates were higher in some American Indian and Alaska Native populations points to the work we still have to do.”

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