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US cancer mortality rates have been declining for the past 25 years

According to data from the American Cancer Society, there was a steady decline in the cancer mortality rate among Americans over a period of 25 years. From 1991 to 2016, there were approximately 2.6 million fewer deaths from cancer.

The Cancer Statistics 2019 report estimates that this year in the U.S., there will be 1,762,450 new cases diagnosed, and 606,880 patients will lose their lives to cancer.

Since the cancer death rate peaked in 1991, this rate has steadily declined by about 1.5 percent per year – leading to an overall decline of 27 percent by 2016.

The drop in cancer mortality has primarily resulted from a steady decline in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. These improvements are reflected in the lower death rates from the four major cancers, which include lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.

By contrast, death rates have slightly increased for liver, pancreatic, and endometrial cancers. Deaths from cancers of the brain, soft tissue, and sites within the oral cavity and pharynx associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV) have also been on the rise.

Over the last decade, the cancer incidence rate was stable among women and declined by around two percent each year among men. The racial gap in cancer mortality is slowly narrowing, but socioeconomic inequalities are widening. Residents of the poorest counties have experienced an increasingly disproportionate burden of the most preventable cancers.

For example, women in poor U.S. counties are twice as likely to die from cervical cancer compared to women in affluent counties, while men in poor counties are 40 percent more likely to die from lung or liver cancer.

“These (poor) counties are low-hanging fruit for locally focused cancer control efforts, including increased access to basic health care and interventions for smoking cessation, healthy living, and cancer screening programs,” wrote the study authors. “A broader application of existing cancer control knowledge with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups would undoubtedly accelerate progress against cancer.”

The study is published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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