Cancer Death Rates Continue To Decline In US

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Cancer Death Rates

Cancer death rates among U.S. residents declined by an average of 2.1%annually from 2002 to 2004, in large part because of improvedprevention, early detection and treatment; however, American Indiansand Alaska Natives in some regions are not benefiting from suchadvances, according to a report published online on Monday, the New York Times reports. Cancer death rates have been declining by an average of 1.1% annually since 1993, according to the Times.

The report, from cancer groups including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute,says that compared with the rest of the U.S. population, some AmericanIndians and Alaska Natives have higher rates of preventable cancers andlate-stage tumors that could have had a better prognosis with earlierdetection. Researchers attributed the higher rates to smoking, poverty,lower education levels and a lack of access to health services andhealth insurance. Many American Indians and Alaska Natives receivehealth services through the Indian Health Service, but the facilities usually are not able to treat cancer, according to the Times.Such people might encounter "complicated rules and restrictions" tryingto find cancer treatment through outside contractors, the Times reports.

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Accordingto Elizabeth Ward, director of cancer surveillance for ACS, the reportis the first to look at cancer among American Indians and AlaskaNatives by region. According to the report, Alaska and the northern andsouthern plains had the highest rates of lung cancer, while rates werelower on the Pacific Coast, in the East and in the Southwest.Colorectal cancer incidence was three or more times higher in Alaskaand the northern plains than in the Southwest. Alaska had the highestrates of breast cancer.

"Access to care truly is the message.When people have equal access to care, they have equal outcomes,"Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research atthe Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California-Los Angeles, said.

Wardsaid, "The concern we have is that much of the progress we've attainedin reducing death rates comes from tobacco control, screening andaccess to timely and high-quality treatment, and those positive effectsare not being seen in all populations in the U.S."

Neal Meropol, director of the gastrointestinal cancer program at Fox Chase Center,said, "In spite of improvements, it's still a minority of individualsin our country that undergo screening for colon cancer. If everyonewere screened appropriately, these incidence numbers would fall evenmore dramatically annually" (Grady, New York Times, 10/15).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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