ACS: Cancer death rate drops, yet nearly 600,000 will die in 2011

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A steady reduction in overall cancer death rates translates into the avoidance of about 898,000 deaths from cancer between 1990 and 2007, according to the latest statistics from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Each year, ACS estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths expected in the U.S. 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.

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, according to “Cancer Statistics 2011,” and its companion consumer publication “Cancer Facts & Figures 2011.” Overall cancer incidence rates were stable in men in the most recent time period after decreasing by 1.9 percent per year from 2001 to 2005; in women, incidence rates have been declining by 0.6 percent annually since 1998.

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 stable. African-American and Hispanic men showed the largest annual decreases in cancer death rates during this time period, 2.6 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively. Lung cancer death rates showed a significant decline in women after continuously increasing since the 1930s.

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Among men, cancers of the prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum account for more than half (about 52 percent) of all newly diagnosed cancers. Prostate cancer alone accounts for 29 percent 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 percent of estimated cancer cases in women. Breast cancer alone is expected to account for 30 percent of all new cancer cases among women.
  • The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with an invasive cancer is higher for men (44 percent) than women (38 percent).
  • 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 percent 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 percent per year from 2001 to 2007 in males and by 1.5 percent in females from 2002 to 2007, compared to smaller declines of 1.5 percent per year in males from 1993 to 2001 and 0.8 percent per year in females from 1994 to 2002.
  • Between 1990/1991 and 2007, cancer death rates decreased by 22.2 percent in men and by 13.9 percent 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 accounts for nearly 80 percent 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 percent of the decrease.

The reports feature a special section on the impact of eliminating disparities on cancer deaths. This section finds cancer death rates for individuals with the least education are more than twice those of the most educated and that closing that gap could have prevented 37 percent--or 60,370--of the premature cancer deaths that occurred in 2007 in people ages 25 to 64 years.