More people are living longer and fuller lives thanks to a steadily declining cancer mortality rate.
According to a report from the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate in the United States has declined by 27% over the course of the last 25 years.
As of 2016, the cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 27% from its peak in 1991. This decline translates to nearly 2.6 million deaths averted during this time period.
The drop in cancer mortality is mostly due to steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. “This new report reiterates where cancer control efforts have worked, particularly the impact of tobacco control,” said Otis W. Brawley, former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
“A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates. Strikingly though, tobacco remains by far the leading cause of cancer deaths today, responsible for nearly 3 in 10 cancer deaths.”
Lung cancer death rates declined 48% from 1990 to 2016 among men and 23% from 2002 to 2016 among women. From 2011 to 2015, the rates of new lung cancer cases dropped by 3% per year in men and 1.5% per year in women. 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.
Breast cancer death rates declined 40% from 1989 to 2016 among women. The progress is attributed to improvements in early detection.
Prostate cancer death rates declined 53% from 1993 to 2016 among men. Routine screening with the PSA blood test is no longer recommended because of concerns about high rates of over-diagnosis (finding cancers that would never need to be treated). Therefore, fewer cases of prostate cancer are now being detected.
Colorectal cancer death rates declined 53% from 1970 to 2016 among men and women because of increased screening and improvements in treatment.
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