Cancer Death Rates Continue Decline That Began in
Early 1930s Says Cancer Society
Cancer Statistics 2011 shows among men the
reduction in lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers is nearly 80% of
decline; among women, almost 60% of decrease in breast and colorectal
June 17, 2011 – A steady decline in overall cancer
death rates appears to have saved 898,000 deaths from cancer between
1990 and 2007, according to the latest statistics from the American
Cancer Society. Good news for the primary targets of cancer - senior
citizens. This progress has not, however, benefitted all segments of the
population equally - cancer death rates for individuals with the least
education are more than twice those of the most educated.
Closing that gap between the least educated and
most educated could have prevented 37% - or 60,370 - of the premature
cancer deaths that occurred in 2007 in people ages 25-64 years.
A steady reduction in overall cancer death rates
translates to the avoidance of about 898,000 deaths from cancer between
1990 and 2007, according to the latest statistics from the American
Cancer Society. However,
The report, Cancer Statistics 2011, and its
companion consumer publication Cancer Facts & Figures 2011 are
the current versions of national cancer statistics published each year
ACS estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and
deaths expected in the United States in the current year and compiles
the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival based
on incidence data from the National Cancer Institute, Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, and the North American Association of
Central Cancer Registries, and mortality data from the National Center
for Health Statistics.
Some of the key findings:
● A total of 1,596,670 new cancer cases and 571,950 deaths from
cancer are projected to occur in the U.S. in 2011.
● Overall cancer incidence rates were stable in men in the most
recent time period after decreasing by 1.9% per year from 2001 to 2005.
● In women, incidence rates have been declining by 0.6% annually
● Lung cancer death rates showed a significant decline in women after
continuously increasing since the 1930s.
Overall cancer death rates, which have been
dropping since the early 1990s, continued to decrease in all
racial/ethnic groups in both men and women since 1998, with the
exception of American Indian/Alaska Native women, among whom rates were
African American and Hispanic men showed the
largest annual decreases in cancer death rates during this time period,
2.6% and 2.5%, respectively.
Cancer Statistics 2011 is published early online in
CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Other highlights of the
● Among men, cancers of the prostate, lung and
bronchus, and colorectum account for more than half (about 52%) of all
newly diagnosed cancers. Prostate cancer alone accounts for 29%
(240,890) of incident cases in men.
● The three most commonly diagnosed types of
cancer among women in 2011 are breast, lung and bronchus, and
colorectum, accounting for about 53% of estimated cancer cases in women.
Breast cancer alone is expected to account for 30% (230,480) of all new
cancer cases among women.
● The lifetime probability of being diagnosed
with an invasive cancer is higher for men (44%) than women (38%).
● It is estimated that about 571,950 Americans
will die from cancer, corresponding to over 1,500 deaths per day.
● Cancers of the lung and bronchus, prostate,
and colorectum in men, and cancers of the lung and bronchus, breast, and
colorectum in women continue to be the most common causes of cancer
death. These four cancers account for almost half of the total cancer
deaths among men and women.
● Lung cancer is expected to account for 26% of
all cancer deaths among women in 2011.
● The lung cancer mortality rate in women has
finally begun to decline, more than a decade later than the decline
began in men. The lag in lung cancer trends in women compared with men
reflects a later uptake of cigarette smoking in women, among whom
smoking peaked about 20 years later than in men.
● Recent rapid declines in colorectal cancer
incidence rates largely reflect increases in screening that can detect
and remove precancerous polyps.
● The overall cancer death rate decreased by
1.9% per year from 2001-2007 in males and by 1.5% in females from
2002-2007, compared to smaller declines of 1.5% per year in males from
1993-2001 and 0.8% per year in females from 1994-2002.
● Between 1990/1991 and 2007, cancer death rates
decreased by 22.2% in men and by 13.9% in women.
● Mortality rates have continued to decrease for
colorectum, female breast, and prostate cancers.
● Among men, the reduction in death rates for
lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers account for nearly 80% of the
total decrease in the cancer death rate, while among women, a reduction
in death rates for breast and colorectal cancers account for almost 60%
of the decrease.
A Disease of
"The actual number of people dying from cancer (sometimes called
the count) can be influenced by several factors, including the
growth in the number of older people in the United States
(cancer is primarily a disease of aging) and the increase in
size of the population.'" - Annual Cancer Report, NAACCR,
NCI, CDC, ACS
"The nearly 900,000 cancer deaths avoided over a
17-year period stand in stark contrast to the repeated claim that cancer
death rates have not budged," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief
executive officer of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy
affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
"Nonetheless, we refuse to be satisfied, and are
committed to doing whatever it takes, not only to ensure cancer death
rates continue to drop, but to accelerate the decline."
Disparity by level of education
The reports feature a Special Section on the impact
of eliminating disparities on cancer deaths. Level of education is often
used as a marker of socioeconomic status. In 2007, cancer death rates in
the least educated segment of the population were 2.6 times higher than
those in the most educated.
This disparity was largest for lung cancer, for
which the death rate was five times higher in the least educated than
for the most educated. Differences in lung cancer death rates reflect
the striking gradient in smoking prevalence by level of education; 31%
of men with 12 or fewer years of education are current smokers, compared
to 12% of college graduates and 5% of men with graduate degrees.
The special section also estimated the numbers of
potential premature cancer deaths that could be avoided in the absence
of socioeconomic and/or racial disparities. If all adults ages 25 to 64
in the United States in 2007 had the cancer death rate of the most
educated non-Hispanic whites, 37% --or 60,370 out of 164,190—premature
cancer deaths could potentially have been avoided.
For African Americans, closing the gap between
death rates among the most and least educated could potentially avert
twice as many premature cancer deaths as eliminating racial disparities
between blacks and whites, underscoring the preponderance of poverty in
cancer disparities across all segments of the population.
About these statistics
The annual reports have become critical tools for
scientists, public health experts, and policymakers in assessing the
current burden of cancer. These estimates are some of the most widely
quoted cancer statistics in the world. The Society's leading team of
epidemiologic researchers, in collaboration with scientists from the
National Cancer Institute, compiles and analyzes incidence and mortality
data to estimate the number of new cancer cases and deaths for the
current year nationwide and in individual states.
The expected numbers of new cancer cases and cancer
deaths should be interpreted with caution because these estimates are
based on statistical models and may vary considerably from year to year.
Not all changes in cancer trends can be captured by
modeling techniques and sometimes the model may be too sensitive to
recent trends, resulting in over- or under-estimates. For these reasons,
the estimates should not be compared from year-to-year to determine
trends; age-standardized cancer incidence and death rates are the best
way to monitor changes in cancer occurrence and death.
Despite these limitations, the American Cancer
Society's estimates of the number of new cancer cases and deaths in the
current year provide reasonably accurate estimates of the burden of new
cancer cases and deaths in the United States. Such estimates will assist
in continuing efforts to reduce the public health burden of cancer.
The American Cancer Society says it “combines an
unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and
end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than
three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by
every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay
well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well
by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding
cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting
back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying
communities worldwide to join the fight.
“As the nation's largest non-governmental investor
in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we
know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million
people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have
avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about
us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or
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