U.S. Cancer Deaths at Lowest Rate Ever Since 1991

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Newman_cancer-deaths_110116Cancer deaths are now lower than they have been in decades, according to the American Cancer Society.

After peaking in 1991, cancer deaths have now fallen to their lowest rate in decades. In 2012, the most recent year for which there is available statistics, there were 166 deaths from cancer per 100,000 people, compared to a peak of 215 deaths in 1991.

This translates to a 23% decline in the cancer death rate, meaning that over 1.5 million deaths from cancer have been avoided.

Researchers attributed this decline in the rate of deaths from cancer to multiple factors, including improved treatments, better testing, and a reduction in the rate of smoking.

Smoking, which is a common cause of lung cancer and other serious health problems, has declined in use dramatically. Only 15% of U.S. adults smoked cigarettes in 2015. In the 1960s, the rate of smoking was closer to half the U.S. population.

As well, a combination of new and effective testing and treatment methods have also helped reduce deaths from cancer. New testing methods can more accurately detect cervical cancer, while effective new chemotherapy drugs have doubled the survival rate for people with chronic myeloid leukemia.

However, the statistics were not all good. Some types of cancer were found to be on the rise, including colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50, liver cancers, pancreatic cancers, and certain types of leukemia.

As well, researchers cautioned that people should not become overly optimistic from the results. Cancer is still the leading cause of death in many different demographics and age groups. In 2016, 1.7 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer, and an estimated 600,000 cancer deaths will occur.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about half of teens in the U.S. who have never smoked tobacco, are at risk of secondhand smoke, which can lead to various cancers, including breast, stomach, rectum, bladder, brain, throat, and lung cancer.

“Even as cancer remains the second leading cause of death nationwide, steep drops in deaths from heart disease have made cancer the leading cause of death in 21 states, and among adults ages 40 to 79, as well as among Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders,” said the American Cancer Society.

Lung and bronchus cancers are expected to account for over 25% of cancer deaths in 2016. While many other types of cancer can now be effectively treated, lung cancer still has very low survival rates.

The American Cancer Society notes that while the threat of cancer is still ongoing, the fall in the rate of cancer deaths is a promising sign for future treatments and testing methods. However, the American Cancer Society says that lifestyle is also an important factor in reducing cancer deaths. According to their research, roughly one-third of cancer incidents are due to poor lifestyle choices, such as obesity and poor diet.

“The science on the link between cancer and diet is extensive,” said Dr. Richard Wender, chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society has previously stated that there is a significant link between red meat consumption and cancer. The group has criticized the federal government’s dietary guidelines for not reflecting this risk.

Sources for Today’s Article:
Fox, M., “Cancer Deaths Fall, But It’s The Top Killer in 21 States,” NBC News web site, January 7, 2016; http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cancer/cancer-deaths-fall-it-remains-top-killer-21-states-n492221.

Lorenzetti, L., “Cancer Deaths Are Plummeting to Lowest in Decades,” Fortune, January 8, 2016; http://fortune.com/2016/01/08/cancer-deaths-hit-record-low/.