Cancer Deaths in the US Have Decreased: The rate of people dying from cancer in the United States appears to have declined steadily over the past 25 years, according to a new study, but disparities persist between rich and poor.
The global cancer death rate continuously fell from 1991 to 2016 by 27%, according to an American Cancer Society study published Tuesday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
“That translates to about 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates were kept at their peak, as seen in 1991,” according to the study.
“The continued decline in the cancer death rate over the past 25 years is good news and was a bit surprising, just because the other leading causes of death in the US are starting to decline. We’re wondering if that’s going to happen with cancer as well, but so far it hasn’t, “said Rebecca Siegel, first author of the study and strategic director of surveillance information for the American Cancer Society.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest data shows that the top three leading causes of death in the United States in 2017 were heart disease, cancer, and unintentional accidents or injuries.
Meanwhile, on a global scale, the number of people around the world who have cancer appears to be increasing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
A WHO report published in September estimated that in 2018 alone there were 18.1 million new cancer cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths worldwide. Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide.
The American Cancer Society study was based on data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in the United States from sources such as the National Center for Health Statistics; the Surveillance, Epidemiology and Final Rules Program; the National Cancer Registries Program; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.
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Some data dates from 1930, and the most recent data is from 2016.
The data showed that the national cancer death rate increased for most of the 20th century, largely due to increased lung cancer deaths from smoking and tobacco use.
But from its peak of 215.1 deaths per 100,000 people in 1991, the cancer death rate dropped steadily by about 1.5% per year to 156 per 100,000 people in 2016, a total decline of 27%.
The data also showed that the disparity in death rates between black and white cancer patients appeared to be closing. “The racial gap in cancer mortality continues to narrow, so the cancer death rate for blacks was 33% higher than for whites in the mid-1990s, and current data indicates that it is 14% higher. It’s still bigger, but the gap is narrowing, which is good news, ”Siegel said.
However, the data also revealed a disturbing trend: a growing gap in wealth-based death rates.
“It was surprising to see that socioeconomic disparities are actually widening,” Siegel said. “Wealth causes differences in exposure to risk factors and also access to high-quality cancer prevention, treatment and early detection.”
For example, between 2012 and 2016, the global cancer death rate was about 20% higher among people living in the poorest counties in the United States compared to the richest counties, and socioeconomic inequalities in cancer mortality three decades in total, according to the study.
The American Cancer Society also estimates the number of new cancer cases and cancer deaths that could occur nationwide each year, based on the most recent data.
This year, 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths are expected in the United States. That corresponds to more than 4,800 new cases and nearly 1,700 deaths per day, according to the study.
The study had some limitations, including that the projections should be interpreted with caution because they were based on data from three to four years ago.
Still, “it gives us information about what is happening in cancer in the United States because if we don’t know what the trends and the populations are most burdened, we can’t do anything about it,” Siegel said.
A Really Critical Issue
The new study does a “very good job” summarizing those trends, said Dr Walter Curran, executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved in the study.
“The encouraging point is that cancer mortality continues to decline, particularly in men, but the difficult part is that we continue to see more than 600,000 Americans dying of cancer each year,” he said. “The good news is that we see fewer racial disparities in cancer mortality than in the past, but the bad news is that we see socioeconomic disparities in cancer mortality.”
Dr Dan Theodorescu, director of Cedars-Sinai’s Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute in Los Angeles, said he read the results of this annual study of cancer statistics each year.
Some of the poorest counties are in rural South Georgia, and “this is something we’ve come to realize here at Emory University Winship Cancer Institute,” Curran said.
“What you see is a tragedy of the increase in obesity rates, which is now a risk factor for certain types of cancer; more clearly identified rates of tobacco use and problems of access to cancer prevention and detection strategies and, probably, problems of access to diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for cancer, ”he added. “Right now this is a multifactorial problem that now seems to us to be a really critical issue in the world of cancer.” Stay tuned to peryourhealth.com for getting more updates.