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Blog / Cancer, Early Detection, Healthcare Trends

Cancer Death Rates Are Continuing to Go Down

Jan. 31 2020 by Sheherzad Raza Preisler Blog Editor
Cancer Death Rates Are Continuing to Go Down

The American Cancer Society’s annual report regarding rates and trends in oncology showed exciting progress, according to a write-up in ScienceDaily. Between 1991 and 2017, the cancer death rate decreased by an impressive 29 percent; perhaps even more impressive is that 2016 into 2017 saw the biggest one-year drop in mortality that has ever been reported: 2.2 percent. Each year, overall cancer mortality rates decreased by a yearly average of 1.5 percent during the most recent bundle of decade-long data (the years 2008-2017). This marks continuity in a trend of decrease that started in the early ‘90s. If cancer death rates still were still at their previous apex, there have now been about 2.9 million fewer cancer-related mortalities.

This steady decline in cancer mortality over 26 years is “driven by long-term drops in death rates” for the four biggest cancers: prostate, breast, lung, and colorectal. More recent trends, however, are a bit mixed: for example, the pace of decreases in lung cancer deaths has sped up recently, from 2 percent per year to 4% per year. Since 1990, mortality rates related to lung cancer have decreased by an impressive 51 percent for men; in women, the same rates have gone down by 26 percent since 2002. The quickest progress has been seen in more recent years. Lung cancer, however, is still responsible for almost 25 percent of all cancer-related deaths; this number is higher than deaths related to prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers put together. Unfortunately, researchers saw that progress in prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers has slowed down. 

“The news this year is mixed,” remarked Rebecca Siegel, the report’s lead author. “The exciting gains in reducing mortality for melanoma and lung cancer are tempered by slowing progress for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers, which are amenable to early detection. It’s a reminder that increasing our investment in the equitable application of existing cancer control interventions, as well as basic and clinical research to further advance treatment, would undoubtedly accelerate progress against cancer.”