In Brief
  • Cancer Statistics 2017, an annual report released by the American Cancer Society, noted that cancer deaths have dropped 25 percent in 20 years in the United States.
  • An estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases will occur in 2017. From that number, an estimated 600,920 people will still lose their battle against the deadly disease.

Winning Numbers in the Fight Against Cancer

Here’s some much needed good news to usher in the new year –cancer deaths have dropped 25 percent in 20 years in the United States. To put this figure into context, that’s 2.1 million less cancer-related deaths between 1991 to 2014.

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The report is based on Cancer Statistics 2017, an annual report on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival, released by the American Cancer Society. In 1991, death rates due to cancer peaked, reaching 215.1 (per 100,000 population), which significantly dropped in 2014 (the latest year available for analysis) to 161.2 (per 100,000 population).

Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in the US, for both men and women. Nevertheless, the condition saw a 43 percent decline from 1991 to 2014. Deaths from breast cancer were down 38 percent from 1989 to 2014; while prostate cancer was down 51 percent from 1993 to 2014; and colorectal cancer was down 51 percent from 1976 to 2014.

Despite these improved mortality statistics, “lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancers continue to be among the most common causes of cancer death, accounting for about 46% of the total cancer deaths among men and women. More than 1 out of every 4 cancer deaths is due to lung cancer,” Cancer.org writes in a press release.

Continuing the Fight Against Cancer

Declining rates in lung cancer can be credited to more and more people making a concerted effort to quit smoking. However, rates were shown to be declining twice as fast in men versus women, which could likely be due to more women taking up smoking years after men.

For prostate cancer, over diagnosing caused by the PSA blood tests has also been reduced, which could equate to lower incidence. Colonoscopies, a method of pre-screening and removal for pre-cancerous polyps (that typically lead to colorectal cancer) have aided in reducing colorectal cancer. While death rates for this particular type of cancer went down overall, the research notes that they went up among people younger than 50 years (at a rate of two percent per year from 1993 to 2013).

These figures highlight that we are indeed making slow, but steady progress in this fight against cancer. And if anything, they just give us a renewed focus on finding a viable treatment for the 1,688,780 new cancer cases the organization projects will occur in 2017. From that number, an estimated 600,920 people will still lose their battle against the deadly disease.

Obviously our fight against cancer is far from over. But as the Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP, points out:

The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer’s deadly toll. Continuing that success will require more clinical and basic research to improve early detection and treatment, as well as creative new strategies to increase healthy behaviors nationwide. Finally, we need to consistently apply existing knowledge in cancer control across all segments of the population, particularly to disadvantaged groups.