USA cancer death rates are dropping

Joy Montgomery
January 6, 2018

Cancer death rates in the USA continued to fall between 2014 and 2015, extending a 24 year decline, according to the latest figures from the American Cancer Society.

The drop continues a downward trend that started in 1991 and has been driven primarily by reductions in smoking, according to the organization's 2018 report.

"Advancing the fight against cancer for all citizens requires broader application of existing cancer control knowledge, including smoking cessation and the increased uptake of cancer-preventing cervical and colorectal cancer screening and HPV vaccination, across all segments of the population, with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups", researchers conclude in the report.

"This new report reiterates where cancer control efforts have worked, particularly the impact of tobacco control", Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

"Over the past decade, the overall cancer incidence rate was stable in women and declined by about two percent per year in men", it said. Currently, fewer cases of prostate cancer are being detected.

In both sexes, 8 percent of deaths are from colon and rectal cancer.

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Death rates have declined in the four major cancer types.

With the variation in cancer death rate, the lifetime probability is still higher in men than women. The gap is narrowing in people 65 or older, likely due to universal access to health care through Medicare, according to the paper.

Racial inequalities varied across states.

And while death rates were not statistically significantly different between whites and blacks in 13 states, that did not necessarily mean progress, the authors noted. From 1991 to 2015 there was a continuous decrease of 26% in the combined cancer death rate, resulting in about 2,378,600 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had stayed at their peak. Overall, the cancer death rate in 2015 was 14 percent higher for non-Hispanic blacks than for non-Hispanic whites, down from a peak of 33 percent in 1993. From 2014 to 2015, of the 10 leading causes of death, only cancer declined.

The authors reported no conflicts of interest. They also can be oversensitive to sudden or large changes in observed data, and may be adjusted as modeling techniques and cancer surveillance improve.

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