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Cancer Health Center

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Cancer Death Rates Drop 20% Over 2 Decades

Room for Improvement Despite Progress continued...

“More than a million people are alive. That is a huge number of folks,” says Cy Aaron Stein, MD, PhD. He is the chair of the department of medical oncology and therapeutics research at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calf. “This is really wonderful, but we would like to see death rates go down to zero. There is no penicillin for cancer, but good decisions were made and they are bearing fruits now.”

By good decisions, he means regular screening and healthy lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking.

Stein is concerned that recent changes to screening guidelines as well as budget cuts may erode some of this progress.

The obesity epidemic is another wild card. “What obesity will do to these numbers, we don’t know,” he says. Obesity has been linked to higher risk for several cancer types, including breast, colorectal, and pancreatic cancers, among others.

Breast and Pancreatic Cancers

Stephanie Bernik, MD, says that early detection and better treatments are largely responsible for the drop in breast cancer deaths. She is the chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

“We had good cure rates, and now they are excellent,” she says. But If we cut back on screening, it could negatively impact these numbers. According to the new report, there will be an estimated 232,340 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed among women, and 39,620 women are projected to die from breast cancer in 2013.

While other cancer rates are falling, the report shows that more people are being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer than ever before.

In 2013, there will be an estimated 45,220 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in the U.S., and about 38,460 people are projected to die from this cancer.

And we really don’t know why, says Gagandeep Singh, MD. He is professor at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. “The key thing is try to make the diagnosis a little bit earlier.”

Yes, the statistics are grim, but pancreatic cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, Singh says. “We all have patients that are alive 10 to 12 years out and doing well. There is a lot in the pipeline, and the next five to 10 years hold great promise for the detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.”

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