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Cancer death rate steadily drops

In the past 20 years, cancer death rates have decreased, driven by reduction in lung, breast, prostate and colon/rectum cancer. CONTRIBUTED
In the past 20 years, cancer death rates have decreased, driven by reduction in lung, breast, prostate and colon/rectum cancer. CONTRIBUTED

BIRMINGHAM – Since its peak in 1991, the cancer death rate has dropped by 23 percent with reductions in smoking and advances in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment.

That encouraging news is included in “Cancer Statistics, 2016,” the American Cancer Society’s latest annual report on cancer incidence, mortality and survival.

“The report estimates there will be 1,685,210 new cancer cases and 595,690 cancer deaths in the United States in 2016,” Kate Rosson with American Cancer Society said.

Cancer mortality continues to decline. In the past 10 years, the rate dropped by 1.8 percent annually in men and 1.4 percent annually in women. “Decline in cancer death rates over the past two decades is driven by continued decreases in death rates for the four major cancer sites: lung, breast, prostate and colon/rectum,” Rosson said.

Death rates for female breast cancer have declined 36 percent from peak rates in 1989, while deaths from prostate and colorectal cancers have each dropped about 50 percent from their peak. Early detection and treatment led to these improvements.

“We’re gratified to see cancer death rates continuing to drop. But the fact that cancer is nonetheless becoming the top cause of death in many populations is a strong reminder that the fight is not over,” Dr. Otis W. Brawley said. Brawley is chief medical officer with American Cancer Society.

Among children and adolescents, brain cancer has surpassed leukemia as the leading cause of cancer death.

Colorectal cancer and death rates declined by about three percent annually in both men and women from 2003 through 2012. Thyroid cancer is increasing most rapidly.

In contrast to stable or declining trends for most cancers, incidence rates increased from 2003 to 2012 among both men and women for some leukemia subtypes and for cancers of the tongue, tonsil, small intestine, liver, pancreas, kidney, renal pelvis and thyroid.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women aged 20 to 59 years. Lung cancer is the major threat for women 60 and older. Among men, leukemia is the leading cause for ages 20 to 39 years; lung cancer ranks first among men 40 and older.

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