National Report Documents Continued Decline in U.S. Cancer Death Rates

Healthy behavior changes, better screening technologies help fight lung, breast, colon, and kidney cancer. 

Focus article photo

Source: National Cancer Institute

Overall cancer death rates declined for all of the most common cancer sites (including lung, colon and rectum, female breast, and prostate) between 2000-2009, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. Continuing a trend that began in the early 1990s, the report found that overall cancer death rates in the United States declined among men (1.8% per year), women (1.4% per year), and children (1.8% per year). Death rates increased for melanoma of the skin (among men only) and for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and uterus. The report found increases in incidence of cancers related to obesity and those linked to human papillomavirus (HPV).

Since 1998, the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) have collaborated to create the report, which provides a regular update of cancer incidence (new cases), mortality rates, and trends in the United States.

While new cancers (cancer incidence rates) among children 14 years or younger increased 0.6 percent each year from 1992 through 2009, considerable progress has been seen for many types of childhood cancers, resulting in overall declines in death rates for cancer among children since at least 1975. In the most recent 10-year period, cancer death rates among children ages 0 to14 years and 0 to 19 years declined 1.8 percent per year.

Numbers may reflect impact of prevention strategies, vaccinations, and early detection and treatment options

"The good news is that cancer rates continued to fall in the last decade, particularly in most of the common cancers," said Norris Cotton Cancer Center Associate Director for Population Sciences Christopher Amos, who notes that early detection and reducing risk factors seem to be reflected in the numbers. "Cancer prevention strategies like smoking regulation policies and cessation programs, improved treatment options, and early detection through screenings have all contributed to this progress."

Death rates among men decreased for 10 of the 17 most common cancers (lung, prostate, colon and rectum, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney, stomach, myeloma, oral cavity and pharynx, and larynx) and increased for four others (cancer of the pancreas, liver, soft tissue including heart, and melanoma of the skin).During the same period, death rates among women decreased for 15 of the 18 most common cancers (lung, breast, colon and rectum, ovary, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, brain and other central nervous system, myeloma, kidney, stomach, cervix, bladder, esophagus, oral cavity and pharynx, and gallbladder) and increased for cancers of the pancreas, liver, and uterus.

Rates for human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers rise

One area where preventative action falls behind is with human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers. A special section of this year's report looks at trends in HPV-associated cancers and HPV vaccination coverage levels among adolescent girls. Less than half of girls ages 13 to 17 received at least one dose of the recommended three-dose HPV vaccine. The government's Healthy People 2020 campaign aims to have 80 percent of eligible girls vaccinated by the next decade.

Reduce your cancer risk
  • Smoking causes 30 percent of all cancer deaths.
    Do not use tobacco
  • Being overweight substantially raises your risk of uterine, breast, colon, kidney, and other cancers, and regular exercise is linked to a lower risk of cancer.
    Maintain a Healthy Weight & Be Active
  • Screening can find cancer before symptoms develop, and increases the chance of finding cancer early, when it can be treated most effectively.
    Find It Early (Get Screened)
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. Reducing sun burns and exposure to UV radiation among children under age 18 can prevent 90% of skin cancers later in life.
    Protect Yourself from the Sun

Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)

January 14, 2013