JNCI: Cancer deaths and diagnoses drop

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Image source: National Institutes of Health

Overall cancer incidence in the U.S. decreased by nearly 1 percent per year between 2003 and 2007, with mortality falling by twice that figure across all four years, thanks largely to advances in diagnostic imaging, showed the findings of a report published in the April edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
For the first time in the report’s history, which has tracked trends since the 1930s, female incidence of lung cancer decreased. The modest 0.2 percent reduction was heralded by the report’s authors, who had anticipated such a reversal since lung cancer rates in men began falling more than a decade ago.

“The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer” is a multi-organizational project including the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The report evaluates aggregate cancer trends in the U.S., considering more than 30 years of data based on cancer type, sex, age and race.

Death rates from cancer decreased for both men and women between 2003 and 2007, though not significantly among men, due mostly to a late increase in prostate cancer incidence. Despite this uptick, mortality for prostate cancer continued to decline.

Along with lung cancer, significant mortality decreases were seen for cancers of the colorectum, kidney, stomach, brain, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and myeloma, as well as for prostate and oral cancer among men and cancers of the breast, ovary and bladder among women.

“These decreases indicate real progress in cancer control, reflecting a combination of primary prevention, early detection and treatment,” argued Betsy A. Kohler, MPH, CTR, from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries in Springfield, Ill, and co-authors. “These trends are driven largely by trends in the most common cancer sites (lung, colorectal, prostate, and female breast), accounting for more than 50 percent of the overall rates in both men and women.”

Patients and physicians continued to struggle with cancers of the pancreas and liver, however, with mortality rates growing for both men and women. The authors also pointed to the absence of uterine cancer screening as an important contributor to increasing deaths from the disease. Likewise, men experienced rising mortality from melanoma.

All races and ethnicities experienced drops in overall mortality, with black and Hispanic men seeing the greatest reductions at approximately 2.5 percent between 1998 and 2007. Black men and women continued to show the highest mortality rates for all races.

“Of concern is the long-term increase in cancer incidence rates among children, which may be because of larger increases in incidence rates for the lymphoid leukemias and proportionately smaller increases for other childhood cancers,” the authors explained. Overall mortality among children continued its 30-year decrease, albeit at a slower pace in recent years following this growing incidence.

Overall cancer mortality also fell for both genders and every race and ethnicity except for American Indians/Alaska Natives.

Reflecting on the findings, the report’s authors concluded, “The observed decreases in overall cancer incidence and death rates in nearly all racial and ethnic groups are highly encouraging. This progress could be accelerated by comprehensively applying existing cancer control knowledge of cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment to public health and clinical practices.”