U.S. Death Rate From Cancer Drops 20 Percent

Increased screening, earlier detection saves lives

normal cells next to cancer cells

The U.S. cancer death rate tumbled 20 percent in recent years from its peak in 1991, thanks to increased screening and early detection.

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Newly released numbers from the American Cancer Society show the 1991 death rate of 215.1 deaths per 100,000 people fell to 171.8 deaths per 100,000 people in 2010, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

The difference in numbers means nearly 1,340,400 fewer cancer deaths occurred.

Mikkael Sekeres, MD, MS, Director, Leukemia Program at Cleveland Clinic, said news of the death rate decline is “extremely exciting.”

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The cancer death rate among men and women has been falling continuously for two decades, the report said. Much of the progress can be attributed to identifying earlier stages of cancer, Dr. Sekeres said, rather than the effectiveness of available therapies.

“It’s a tribute to increased public awareness of and a heightened public comfort level in discussing cancer and participating in effective cancer screening strategies,” Dr. Sekeres said.

Despite the decline, the report estimates that more than half a million people will die from cancer in 2014.

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“That should be a call to action for more research into novel therapies and therapy combinations, and increased education about not denying therapies to cancer patients simply because of advanced age or other medical conditions,” Dr. Sekeres said.

Other highlights from the report:

  • Lung, colon, prostate and breast cancers continue to be the most common causes of cancer death, and account for almost half of all cancer deaths among men and women.
  • More than one out of every four cancer deaths is from lung cancer.
  • In 2014, prostate, lung and colon cancer will account for about half of all newly diagnosed cancers in men, with prostate cancer accounting for about one in four cases.
  • The most common cancers for women in 2014 will be breast, lung and colon, which combined will account for half of all cases.
  • Breast cancer is expected to account for 29 percent of all new cancer cases among women.
  • From 2008 to 2010, new colon cancer cases dropped by more than 4 percent every year, due in part to more people having colonoscopies, which can prevent cancer through the removal of pre-cancerous growths called polyps.
  • The rate of new lung cancer cases continues to fall.

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