US Cancer Death Rate Has Largest Single-Year Drop Ever, Report Says

Grant Boone
January 9, 2020

Since 1930, the American Cancer Society has been tracking the cancer death rate in the US-the number of deaths per 100,000 people-and its latest report shows the biggest single-year drop ever: 2.2% in 2017, reports the Washington Post.

The figures come from the society's "Cancer Statistics, 2020" report and paint a picture of long-term decline in mortality rates from common types of cancer.

Still, lung cancer accounts for almost one-quarter of all cancer deaths - more than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. "Overall cancer death rates dropped by an average of 1.5% per year between 2008 and 2017".

Over the past several decades, the USA has made significant progress in lowering cancer rates.

"It's absolutely driven by lung cancer", which accounts for about a quarter of all cancer deaths, she said.

Typically, mortality data in the United States is about three years behind the current year, due in large part to the need confirm that deaths were actually linked with a cancer.

"Less than 5 percent of patients in the US actually get screened for lung cancer appropriately", Awad said.

To make up for the lag, the ACS uses computer models of cancer and population trends to project what's now happening in cancer.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking has declined more than 20 percent nationwide since 2005. The report projects 202 will see 1,806,590 new cancer cases and 606,520 cancer deaths in the US.

Nevertheless, progress has slowed for female breast and colorectal cancer, and has essentially levelled off for prostate cancer over the past decade. On the other hand, lung cancer mortality fell at an increasing rate. Genetic testing can now identify specific cancer cell mutations, which allow more targeted therapy using newer pharmaceuticals that are a step beyond traditional chemotherapy.

Decades-long increases in liver cancer deaths for both men and women appear to be abating, the report said.

Experts mainly credit advances in treatment.

"They are a profound reminder of how rapidly this area of research is expanding, and now leading to real hope for cancer patients", Cance said in the release.

California-based medical company Auris Health has been in the process of revolutionizing the detection of lung cancer through a new robotic "bronchoscope" that can find hard-to-reach cancer nodules.

"What we're seeing with obesity is really sort of parallel to what we saw with cigarette smoking", said Timothy Rebbeck, an epidemiologist at Harvard and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. "That's a concerning trend", he said.

But the drop in deaths seems to have been accelerated by recent lung cancer treatment advances, Siegel said.

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