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From Bad to Better: U.S. Cancer Rates Continue to Drop

Report: Overall Cancer Incidence and Death Rates Are Down, but Seven Cancers Are on the Rise

The Rising Risk of HPV

Researchers saw some of the steepest increases in HPV-related oral cancers among middle-aged men.

“So rates were higher and increased at a faster rate for men in the 55 to 64 age group compared to men over 65,” says Edgar P. Simard, PhD, MPH, a senior epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society. That was surprising, Simard says, because cancer rates are typically higher in adults over age 65.

HPV infection of the mouth and throat has been linked to oral sex.

HPV-related cancers usually take years to grow, which is why they’re often successfully caught in women who get regular cervical cancer screenings.

But Simard notes that doctors don’t check for HPV infection in the throat. “There really is no early detection method that’s currently available.”

Additionally, doctors aren’t sure if the HPV vaccine will prevent oral as well as genital cancers. “At the moment, that’s unknown,” he says.

The Burden of Obesity

Other cancers may be rising along with increases in obesity. Those include cancers of the esophagus, liver, kidney, and pancreas.

Obesity is thought to account for 30% to 40% of cases of kidney cancer, for example. And studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of esophageal cancer 16-fold.

“The increasing obesity epidemic might be increasing cancers of the stomach and digestive tract,” Seiden says.

That should be further motivation for many who have resolved to slim down this year.

“There’s still a lot of low-lying fruit. If we could get colonoscopy rates above 50%, if we could get 0% of people addicted to cigarettes, if everyone exercised and controlled their weight, we could make even more progress,” Seiden says.

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