Aggressive Cancer Treatment, Prevention Efforts Drop Cancer Rates
New cancer diagnosis rates decreased from 1999 to 2005 by 0.8% a year, according to a newly released report by the National Cancer Institute, the US Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society. In addition, death rates from cancer dropped an average of 1.8% each year from 2002 to 2005. The decline is primarily due to lower death rates from prostate and lung cancer in men and breast cancer in women and colorectal cancer in both sexes. It is the first time new cancer rates have dropped since statistics have been tracked.
Careful statistical analysis by researchers showed the downward trend in new cancer diagnosis spanned several years. Experts believe aggressive cancer prevention and treatment efforts are starting to bear results. New cases of colon cancer fell by more than 2% annually. By 2005, half of all adults 50 and older were being screened for colon cancer, up from 27% in 1987.
New cases of lung cancer fell to the lowest level in more than 30 years and are attributed to the war on smoking finally paying off. The CDC reported the number of adults who smoke has dropped below 20%. "Lung cancer is the big one when it comes to cancer in the United States," said Dr. John Glaspy of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
All types of cancer did not see such positive trends, however. New cases are up for myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma and cancers of the liver, kidney and esophagus. In certain areas, like the Midwest or South, where states have not passed anti-smoking laws, the incidence and mortality from lung cancer actually increased.
Death rates for pancreatic cancer in women, esophageal cancer in men and liver cancer for both sexes were elevated. Liver cancer is associated with Hepatitis C and the incidence of Hep C rose after the drug use in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Further research is needed for cancers whose incidence has increased, the report said. Some highly lethal cancers such as pancreatic and brain cancer show that there is still much work to be done. There were also disparities according to race, socioeconomic status and geographic location.
Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said, "The drop in incidence is something we have been waiting to see for a long time," And "the continuing drop in mortality is evidence once again of real progress made against cancer, reflecting real gains in prevention, early detection and treatment."
Currently, about 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and an estimated 560,000 die from it.
Toni Brayer, MD