Cancer Death Rate Continues to Fall
Researchers Say More Cancers Are Being Detected Early or Prevented Through Screening
Dec. 7, 2009 -- New cancer cases and the cancer death rate continue to fall
in the U.S., driven largely by declines in lung, prostate, and colorectal
cancers in men and breast and colorectal cancers in women.
For all types of cancer, new cases declined by nearly 1% a year between 1999
and 2006. During much of the 1990s cancer incidence rates were stable, after
increasing steadily from the mid-1970s.
The cancer death rate -- the best predictor of progress against the disease
-- has been falling for more than a decade and a half. Deaths from cancer
declined by about 1% annually between 1993 and 2001 and 1.6% annually from 2002
Fewer Americans are smoking and more cancers are being detected early or
prevented entirely through screening.
These two trends have played a big part in reducing cancer deaths in the U.
S., experts say.
"We continue to make progress in the battle against cancer, and this
progress is reflected in the continued decline in deaths," Elizabeth Ward, PhD,
of the American Cancer Society tells WebMD.
Breast, Colon, and Prostate Cancer Deaths Fall
The annual report examining cancer incidence and cancer death trends in the
U.S. is a joint effort by the CDC, the National Cancer Institute, the American
Cancer Society, and the North American Association of Central Cancer
Among the major findings:
- The overall cancer incidence continues to be higher for men than for women,
but men experienced the greatest declines in new cases and deaths.
- New cases declined for the three leading cancers in men -- prostate, lung,
and colorectal cancer -- as well as for brain cancer, stomach cancer, and
cancer of the oral cavity. No change was seen in the rate of pancreatic cancer
and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and increases were reported for cancers of the
brain, esophagus, kidney, and liver and for melanoma and myeloma.
- Among women, declines were reported for two of the three most widely
diagnosed cancers: breast and colorectal. New cases of lung cancer rose
- For men and women, death rates declined for colorectal, stomach, kidney,
and brain cancers, as well as for leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and
myeloma. Lung cancer death rates dropped by 2% annually among men and remained
unchanged for women.
- Deaths from prostate cancer fell by about 4% annually between 2001 and 2006
and deaths from breast cancer fell by almost 2% a year during the same
"The continued decline in death rates from all cancers combined for men and
women reflects the impact of increased screening, reduction of risk factors,
and improved treatment," the report notes.
While the death rate from cancer continues to fall, the actual number of
Americans who die from the disease is projected to rise in coming years as the
population increases and baby boomers reach the high-risk age for cancer.