U.S. cancer death rate hits milestone: 25 years of decline

  • U.S. cancer death rate hits milestone: 25 years of decline

U.S. cancer death rate hits milestone: 25 years of decline

The U.S. cancer death rate has hit a milestone: It's been falling for at least 25 years, according to a new report.

Data were collected from 47 states and the District of Columbia for this report.

By tracking deaths attributed to cancer over the past few decades the researchers were able to determine that the rate of cancer deaths in 2016 was an incredible 27% lower than it was in 1991. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city will expand health coverage to an estimated 600,000 residents now without insurance, The Washington Post reported.

In contrast to declines for the most common cancers, death rates rose from 2012 through 2016 for liver (1.2% per year in men; 2.6% per year in women), pancreatic (men only, by 0.3% per year), and uterine corpus (endometrial) cancers (2.1% per year), as well as for cancers of the brain and other nervous system, soft tissue (including heart), and sites within the oral cavity and pharynx associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV). Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping, said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the American Cancer Society report published Tuesday. New lung cancer diagnoses have also dropped 3% in men and 1.5% in women between 2011 and 2015.

The nation's cancer death rate was increasing until the early 1990s. The differences reflect historical patterns in tobacco use, where women began smoking in large numbers many years later than men and were slower to quit. That gap has narrowed from a peak of 33% in 1993. However, smoking patterns do not appear to explain the higher lung cancer rates being reported in women compared with men born around the 1960s. "Facilitating access to healthcare has been shown to reduce or even eliminate racial and SES disparities".

A cancer typically found in older adults has been killing younger people for reasons that has puzzled cancer epidemiologists in the past. But now obesity accounts for a third of liver cancer deaths, and is more of a factor than hepatitis, Siegel said. But cancer is the leading cause of death in many states and among Hispanics, Asian Americans and people under 80 years of age. While she celebrated the progress made, she also noted that the report showed that where a patient lives can dictate their chances of surviving cancer and that many patients cannot access high-quality care or be involved in research.

Breast cancer death rates declined 40% from 1989 to 2016 among women. Between 2008 and 2014, the 5-year relative survival rate for children rose to 83% from the previous 58% in the mid-1970s and rose to 85% for adolescents from the previous rate of 68%. Despite these positive trends, cancer remains a pressing health issue in the United States.