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Cancer Death Rate in US Falls 33% in Last 30 Years

Megan Hayes | News Editor

According to statistics and the following of recent studies from the American Cancer Society, professionals have been able to identify a trend in the amount of cancer deaths falling within the United States over the last 30 years. According to “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians” published by Rebecca Siegel, Kimberly Miller, Nikita Sandeep Wagle and Ahmedin Jemal of the ACS, the American Cancer Society has “project[ed] the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths in the United States in 2023 to estimate the contemporary cancer burden using two-step statistical modeling, as described in detail elsewhere,” which has predicted the decrease in cancer deaths to continue. When comparing these predicted statistics to past statistics and analyzing reports by professionals, there is around a 33% fall in the US cancer death rate since 1991. The most recent year that data is available for is the data received between 2019 to 2020, so the new predicted data for 2023 is not proven, yet when following the patterns from previous years, this shows very promising results.

This report by the American Cancer Society accounts for the change in data to be affected by improvements and new inventions in treatment, as well as early detection of cancer in various parts of the body, which sometimes occurs incidentally. As quoted in the journal, “survival improvements for breast and prostate cancers [have been affected] because of lead-time bias and the detection of indolent cancers, which is likely also a factor for thyroid and other cancers that can be detected incidentally through imaging.” With breast cancer as well as prostate cancer sharing statistics in both affecting 1 in 8 people, these incidental detections as well as detections accredited to newer technology are both giant improvements in something that is always difficult to deal with and has a possibility of being life-threatening.

On top of this, more good news is that the survival rates after being diagnosed with cancer have changed significantly as well, as provided in the ACS journal -- “The 5-year relative survival rate for all cancers combined has increased from 49% for diagnoses during the mid-1970s to 68% for diagnoses during 2012 through 2018...Current survival is highest for cancers of the thyroid (98%), prostate (97%), testis (95%) and for melanoma (94%), and lowest for cancers of the pancreas (12%), liver and esophagus (21%).” This data, which may not be as accurate as data obtained from examining the mortality rate in cancer, still proves to be great news in terms of scientific advancements to come. Although the survival rate is one of the highest for prostate cancer, it is identified as an “outlier” because of a precious decline in cases which has been reversed in previous years. This may be because of biases around detection, which still leaves it as the leading cause for cancer deaths in men in the United States. Following the release of this journal, the American Cancer Society announced the release of the IMPACT initiative, with a goal of “Improving Mortality from Prostate Cancer Together”. Within IMPACT, the American Cancer Society, working alongside the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), who is their nonpartisan advocacy affiliate will push forwards in addressing changes in the diagnoses of prostate cancer. Additionally, according to Dr. William Dahut, the chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, “IMPACT will fund bold new cancer research programs that connect the laboratory, the clinic, and the community”.

Some cancer diagnosis rates may still be slowly ticking up, but the United States is still down a tremendous amount since the peak of cancer deaths in 1991. Following the changes in the diagnosis levels in prostate cancer, breast cancer, as well as uterine corpus cancer, we can hope for more changes that follow the purpose of the IMPACT initiative. Although the field of science and cancer diagnosis will never be a static environment, these pieces of good news and new initiatives in the future of diagnosis and treatment may cause a domino effect to hopefully continue to support the trend of cancer death rates falling within the United States.


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