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U.S. Cancer Death Rates Continue to Decline: Report

But researchers added that people with other health problems have lower odds of survival

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Dec. 16, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer death rates continue to decline in the United States, mainly because anti-smoking efforts have caused a drop in lung cancer deaths, researchers report.

From 2001 through 2010, death rates for all cancers combined decreased by 1.8 percent a year among men and by 1.4 percent a year among women, according to a joint report from four of the nation's top cancer institutions, published Dec. 16 in the journal Cancer.

"The four major cancers -- lung, colorectal, breast and prostate -- represent over two-thirds of the decline," said study author Brenda Edwards, a senior advisor for cancer surveillance at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

The report also found that one-third of cancer patients over 65 have other health conditions that can lower their chances of survival. Diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), congestive heart failure and cerebrovascular disease, which impedes blood flow to the brain, are the most common ailments that complicate cancer treatment and survival odds, the researchers said.

"It's good to see a report of this prominence focus on this," said Dr. Tomasz Beer, deputy director of the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University. "The general health of patients is important, and it impacts on cancer outcomes."

The report produced by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Researchers found that lung cancer death rates for men fell by 2.9 percent a year between 2005 and 2010, a much faster rate than the 1.9 percent-per-year decline during the period 1993 to 2005. \

For women, rates declined 1.4 percent annually from 2004 to 2010, which was a turnaround from an increase of 0.3 percent a year during the period 1995 to 2004.

The researchers attributed these overall decreases to the decline in cigarette smoking in the United States. Since lung cancer accounts for more than one in four cancer deaths, these declines are fueling the overall reduction in cancer deaths.

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