Report: Cancer deaths on the decline, but rate of occurrence the same

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A new report from several leading American cancer organizations indicates that the cancer death rate remains in decline, which it began in the early 1990s. The bad news is that the rate of new cancer occurrences remains essentially the same. The “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2003” is to be published in the October 15 issue of Cancer.

The report shows that the decline in overall cancer death rates has continued regardless of race or gender. However, the data show that the drop has been greater for men (1.6 percent per year from 1993 through 2003) than it has been for women (0.8 percent per year from 1992 through 2003). Put in perspective the rates for men remain 46 percent higher than those for women, however.

The causes of cancer deaths have also diminished some, with rates declining for 11 of the 15 most common cancers in men and for 10 of the 15 in women. This is largely due to efforts to get people to stop smoking, better screenings, and improved treatments, according to the authors.

“The greater decline in cancer death rates among men is due in large part to their substantial decrease in tobacco use. We need to enhance efforts to reduce tobacco use in women so that the rate of decline in cancer death rates becomes comparable to that of men,” said Betsy A. Kohler, president of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).

Overall cancer incidence rates (the rate at which new cancers are diagnosed) for both sexes and all races combined have been generally stable from 1992 through 2003. However, there have been some changes and fluctuations during the period:

For women, key incidence rates decreased for:
  • colon and rectum cancers and cancers of the uterus (1998 to 2003);
  • oral cancers (1980 to 2003); and
  • stomach and cervical cancers (since around 1975)
For men, key incidence rates have:
  • decreased for colon and rectum cancers from 1998 to 2003;
  • decreased for stomach and oral cancers since around 1975;
  • decreased for lung cancer during the period 1982 to 2003;
  • increased for prostate cancer from1995 to 2003; and
  • increased for myeloma, leukemia, cancers of the liver, kidney, and esophagus since at least 1975.
The report also includes data regarding cancer rates among U.S. Latino/Hispanic populations. The report finds that, for 1999 to 2003, Latinos had lower incidence rates than non-Hispanic whites for most cancers. Latinos were less likely to be diagnosed with localized stage disease for cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, prostate, female breast, and cervix. However, Latino children have higher incidence rates of leukemia, retinoblastoma, osteosarcoma, and germ cell tumors than do non-Latino white children, according to the report.

The “Annual Report to the Nation” is a collaboration among the NAACCR, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To view the full report, go to