The Cancer Death Rate is Down 20%

Illustration for article titled The Cancer Death Rate is Down 20%

Death rates from cancer have gone down 20% since 1991, according to data in a new study published this month. This does not mean that fewer people are developing cancer, nor does it even mean that fewer people are dying of it — it just means that, year by year, fewer people are dying of the disease. Possible reasons for the shift include better therapies, and earlier diagnosis. In the chart above, and the one below (click to enlarge), you can also see over the past twenty-two years that certain cancers are killing more people — and certain ones are killing fewer.

Illustration for article titled The Cancer Death Rate is Down 20%

Your gender can make a big difference when it comes to cancer mortality. Prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women are among the most common forms of the disease.

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Illustration for article titled The Cancer Death Rate is Down 20%

There are some fascinating facts about cancer mortality in the newly-released study from CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Though prostate and breast cancer are more common, the most deadly forms of cancer for both men and women are lung and colorectal cancers. It's possible we're entering an era when some cancers are more manageable.

Illustration for article titled The Cancer Death Rate is Down 20%

Your race also has an impact on how likely you are to die of cancer. According to a release about the study:

"In 2009, Americans had a 20% lower risk of death from cancer than they did in 1991, a milestone that shows we truly are creating more birthdays," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "But we must also recognize that not all demographic groups have benefitted equally from these gains, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal or breast cancer, where earlier detection and better treatments are credited for the improving trends. We can and must close this gap so that people are not punished for having the misfortune of being born poor and disadvantaged."

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Again, these statistics reflect access to better health care — a luxury that not every group can afford.

Sources: Learn more at Cancer.org, or read the study.

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DISCUSSION

Dr Emilio Lizardo

This is obviously, unequivocally good news, but there are several causes for it. Better treatment obviously helps. But the biggest decline is in lung cancers and the biggest reason for that is a decrease in cigarette smoking. Neither lung cancer treatments nor early detection methods have not progressed all that far in 20 years. The decline in stomach cancer has been going on since the 1930's and is mostly due to better sanitation and less food borne illness which increases risk. Declines in colon cancer mortality are most likely due to more people getting screened as well as better treatments. Not sure what is driving a decline in prostate cancer mortality off the top of my head.

BTW, these tables are available free to the public in a publication called "Cancer Facts and Figures" that the American Cancer Society publishes every year from SEER (Surveillance Epidemiology End Results) data. The second link at the end of the post leads to it. It is always an interesting publication.