ACS reports 20 percent drop in cancer mortality since 1991

The overall cancer mortality rate fell 20 percent between its peak in 1991 and 2009, translating to the avoidance of approximately 1.2 million cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual reporting of cancer statistics. The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) acknowledged the progress and called for Medicare coverage of CT screening for colon and lung cancer.

Information was disseminated in two reports—Cancer Facts & Figures 2013 and the companion article, Cancer Statistics 2013—published online Jan. 17 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Data on cancer incidence, mortality and survival were based on incidence data from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

In 1991, the cancer death rate was 215.1 per 100,000, and fell to 173.1 per 100,000 in 2009, according to the report. Death rates continue to decline for all four major cancer sites: lung, colorectum, breast and prostate. In the most recent five-year period for which there is data, 2005-2009, cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in males and by 1.5 percent per year in females.

MITA said the report illustrates how medical imaging technologies have improved early detection of cancers and also underscores that the cancer death rate in the U.S. will continue to decline if Medicare provides coverage for both CT colonography to detect colon cancer and low-dose CT lung imaging to detect lung cancer in at-risk populations

“Despite this substantial progress, all demographic groups have not benefitted equally, particularly for cancers such as colorectal and breast, for which mortality declines have been attributed to earlier detection and improvements in treatment,” wrote authors Rebecca Siegel, MPH, director of surveillance information for ACS in Atlanta. Large drops in lung cancer were primarily due to reductions in smoking.

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, collectively accounting for almost half of the total cancer deaths.

“Further progress can be accelerated by applying existing cancer control knowledge across all segments of the population, with an emphasis on those groups in the lowest socioeconomic bracket as well as other disadvantaged populations,” wrote the authors.

Incidence rates are increasing among both men and women for melanoma of the skin and cancers of the liver, thyroid and pancreas. From 2005-2009, overall cancer incidence rates decreased by 0.6 percent per year in males and were stable in females.

A total of 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the U.S. in 2013, according to ACS. Prostate cancer will account for 28 percent of incident cases in men, while breast cancer will account for 29 percent of new cancers in women.

Cancer Facts & Figures includes a special section each year, and in 2013 is focused on cancer of the pancreas. “The lack of progress in primary prevention, early diagnosis and treatment underscores the need for additional efforts in pancreatic cancer research and has motivated us to address this disease in the current edition of Cancer Facts & Figures,” wrote the authors.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancer types, with most patients dying within the first year of diagnosis and only 6 percent surviving for five years. Over the past decade, pancreatic cancer death rates have been slowly increasing among men and women in the U.S., according to ACS.