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Cancer death rate hits milestone: 25 years of decline

11 January 2019

The death rate from cancer dropped 27 percent during the past 25 years, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed cancer as the second leading cause of death in the U.S.

In 2016, there were 156 cancer deaths for every 100,000 people, down from a rate of 215 cancer deaths per 100,000 people in 1991.

However, rates of several other cancers have been on the rise in recent years, including endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus), which increased 2.1 percent per year from 2012 to 2016, and pancreatic cancer, which increased 0.3 percent per year among men during this same time period. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping.

Siegel noted that "lung cancer still kills more Americans than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined".

Breast cancer death rates declined 40 percent from 1989 to 2016 among women.

With this figure in mind, it is estimated that between 1991 and 2016 there were about 2,600,000 fewer cancer deaths in the country than there would have been if cancer mortality rates had remained the same.

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Notably, the report highlighted declines in the four most common types of cancer: lung, breast, prostate and colorectal. These include cancers of the liver, pancreas, brain, nervous system, soft tissue-including the heart-and areas of the body affected by the human papillomavirus, such as the mouth and throat. For example, the cervical cancer death rate among women in poor counties in the U.S.is twice as high as that of women in wealthier counties, the report said. Liver cancer deaths have been increasing since the 1970s, and initially most of the increase was tied to hepatitis C infections spread among people who abuse drugs.

"We are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding the influence of the obesity epidemic on cancer rates", Siegel said, according to The WSJ.

Not only are poorer people are "unable to get systematic screenings", Siegel said, "but treatment options are oftentimes not the highest quality".

"Although the racial gap in cancer mortality is slowly narrowing, socioeconomic inequalities are widening, with the most notable gaps for the most preventable cancers", wrote researchers in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

"There is an increased risk among mortality in African American patients diagnosed with cancer compared to non-African American", said Okuno. Lung cancer deaths among men declined 48 precent from 1990 to 2016 and dropped 23 percent for women from 2002 to 2016. He was particularly struck by the fact that nine women aged 20 to 39 die each week from cervical cancer in the US, despite the fact that Merck & Co.'s Gardasil vaccine can prevent it from forming.

Dr. Darrell Gray, deputy director of Ohio State University's Center for Cancer Health Equity, called the findings "important but not surprising". The AP is exclusively responsible for all content.

Cancer death rate hits milestone: 25 years of decline