The American Cancer Society's annual cancer statistics report finds that death rates from cancer in the United States have decreased by 18.4 percent among men and by 10.5 percent among women since mortality rates began to decline in the early 1990s, which translates to the avoidance of more than half a million actual cancer deaths (534,500) in the United States. Society epidemiologists predict that in the U.S. in 2008 there will be 1,437,180 new cancer cases (745,180 in men and 692,000 in women) and 565,650 cancer deaths (294,120 among men and 271,530 among women).
Despite a continuing decline in the cancer death rate from 2004 to 2005, there was an increase of 5,424 actual deaths (559,312 cancer deaths in 2005 compared to 553,888 cancer deaths in 2004). This increase follows a decrease in the number of cancer deaths in the two previous years.
The change is largely due to a smaller decline in the cancer death rate between 2004 and 2005 compared with that in the two previous time periods. From 2004 to 2005, overall cancer mortality dropped about 1 percent, compared to a 2 percent drop from both 2002 to 2003 and 2003 to 2004. With respect to the four major cancer sites, colorectal cancer death rates decreased by about 3 percent from 2004 to 2005, compared to about 6 percent from 2003 to 2004.
The decrease in death rates for cancers of the lung and bronchus and prostate in men and breast in women was also smaller from 2004 to 2005 than from 2003 to 2004. It is important to understand that for the number of cancer deaths to decrease, the decline in the overall cancer mortality rate must be large enough to offset the increasing numbers due to growth and aging of the population.
"The increase in the number of cancer deaths in 2005 after two years of historic declines should not obscure the fact that cancer death rates continue to drop, reflecting the enormous progress that has been made against cancer during the past 15 years," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., American Cancer Society chief executive officer. "While in 2005 the rate of decline was not enough to overtake other population factors, the fact remains that cancer mortality rates continue to drop, and they're doing so at a rate fast enough that over a half million deaths from cancer were averted between 1990/1991 and 2004."
The cancer incidence and mortality data were collected by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Cancer Institute, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, state and local health agencies, and thousands of cancer registrars throughout the country. Since 1952, when the first edition of Cancer Facts & Figures consisted of four typewritten pages, the American Cancer Society's annual estimate of new cancer cases and deaths has become a critical tool for scientists, public health experts, and policymakers in assessing the current burden of cancer. These estimates are some of the most widely quoted cancer statistics in the world.
The Society's leading team of epidemiologic researchers, in collaboration with scientists from the National Center for Health Statistics, compiles and analyzes incidence and mortality data to estimate the number of new cancer cases and deaths for the current year nationwide and in individual states.
Highlights from this year's publications:
Estimates of the expected numbers of new cancer cases and cancer deaths should be interpreted with caution. These estimates may vary considerably from year to year, particularly for less common cancers and in states with smaller populations. Despite these limitations, the American Cancer Society's estimates of the number of new cancer cases and deaths in the current year provide reasonably accurate estimates of the burden of new cancer cases and deaths in the United States. Such estimates will assist in continuing efforts to reduce the public health burden of cancer.
"The progress that has been made in reducing cancer death rates is a direct result of investment in approaches that we know work, such as comprehensive tobacco control and screening for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers, as well as research that has identified more successful treatments," said Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "However, we believe that lack of health insurance and inadequate health insurance is one of the most important barriers to continued progress. A growing body of data shows that compared to those with private insurance, those without health insurance are less likely to receive smoking cessation advice and treatment, about half as likely to receive cancer screening, more likely to be diagnosed at late stage, and less likely to survive after a cancer diagnosis. We are committed to addressing this critical issue."
The findings come from Cancer Statistics 2008, published in the March/April issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, as well as in the 57th edition of its companion publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2008.
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