Cancer Death Rate Declines in the US

SUMMARY: The American Cancer Society released the Cancer Statistics 2016 report, which includes the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in the US. It is estimated that in 2016, 1,685,210 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the US and 595,690 cancer deaths are projected.

With a considerable decline in mortality from heart disease, cancer is now the leading cause of death in 21 states. In males, prostate cancer will be the leading cancer diagnosis in 2016 (21%) and Breast Cancer will be the leading cancer diagnosis in women (29%).

Lung Cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death both in men and women (27%). With major therapeutic advances against leukemia, brain cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among children and adolescents (birth-19 years).

The overall cancer incidence rate in women has remained stable since 1998. However in men, cancer incidence has decreased by 3.1% per year since 2009 and this has been attributed to decline in routine screening with the PSA test. Routine screening with the PSA test is no longer recommended because of high rates of overdiagnosis, estimated at 23% to 42% for screen-detected cancers, which may not result in bad outcomes.

The cancer death rate in the US has dropped by 23% since 1991 which translates to more than 1.7 million deaths averted through 2012. There has been a continued decrease in death rates for the four major cancer sites – lung, breast, prostate, and colon/rectum. This overall decline in cancer deaths may be the result of reduction in smoking prevalence, improved screening modalities for breast, colon and prostate cancers and improvements in treatment.

Despite the overall reduction in cancer mortality, death rates are increasing for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and uterine corpus. Obesity has been shown to increase endometrial cancer risk by 50% for every 5 body mass index (BMI) units. Chronic infection with Helicobacter pylori and Hepatitis B virus has increased the incidence and death rates of stomach and liver cancer, respectively.

The authors concluded that “Advancing the fight against cancer will require continued clinical and basic research, which is dependent on funding, as well as the application of existing cancer control knowledge across all segments of the population, with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups.” With progress being made in cancer prevention using improved screening techniques and behavioral interventions, as well as rapid advances in cancer treatment with the understanding of cancer biology, it is expected that cancer death rate will continue to decline in the years to come. Cancer statistics, 2016. Siegel RL, Miller KD and Jemal A. CA Cancer J Clin 2016;66:7-30.