Pancreatic Cancer: 2nd Deadliest Cancer by 2030?
Prediction highlights need for more research on this difficult-to-diagnose, treat disease, U.S. experts say
However, by 2030, thyroid, melanoma and uterine cancers will actually surpass colorectal cancer -- currently number four -- to rank as the fourth, fifth and sixth biggest cancers in absolute numbers.
The picture in terms of cancer fatalities is somewhat different, however.
Today lung, prostate and colorectal cancers are currently the number one, two, and three cancer killers of men in the United States, while for women the ranking is lung, breast and colorectal cancer.
Lung cancer is predicted to remain the top cancer killer in 2030. But, the study team found that the second biggest cancer killer of both men and women combined will shift to pancreatic cancer, followed by liver cancer.
Matrisian and her associates characterized the findings as a "call to action" that highlights an overall need for improving both pancreatic cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Yet, on a positive note, Matrisian suggested that the future may prove somewhat brighter for pancreatic cancer, at least in terms of the amount of resources devoted to research. For example, she pointed out that a law passed in 2013 now requires that the U.S. National Cancer Institute place a renewed focus on improving diagnosis and treatments for a number of intractable cancers, including both pancreatic and lung cancer.
Dr. Anirban Maitra, co-director and scientific director of the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, stressed that "pancreatic cancer is a very difficult disease to detect and treat". And given insufficient funding for research, he expressed little surprise with the projected trends.
"We've known for years that pancreatic cancer was one of the few cancers for which the incidence and death rate were on the rise," he said, "while other major cancers have benefitted from significant progress leading to a decline in death rates. However, the publishing of this study is a stark reminder that much work lies ahead to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients."