Drop in Total Cancer Deaths

Armen Hareyan's picture

Cancer Deaths

The American Cancer Society's annual estimate of cancer deaths says 2006 will see a slight decline in the projected number of cancer deaths compared to estimates made for 2005. The projections are based on a decline in the actual number of cancer deaths reported by the National Center for Health Statistics for 2002 (557,271 deaths) and 2003 (556,902 deaths), the first decline in the actual number of cancer deaths in over 70 years.

From 2002 to 2003, the number of recorded cancer deaths decreased by 778 in men, but increased by 409 in women, resulting in a net decrease of 369 total cancer deaths, the first such decrease since 1930, when nationwide data began to be compiled.. The decrease in the number of Americans dying from cancer is a result of declining cancer death rates outpacing the impact of growth and aging of the population. Death rates adjust for the size and age of the population. The death rate from all cancers combined has decreased in the United States since 1991, but not until 2003 was the decrease large enough to outpace the growth and aging of the population and reduce the actual number of cancer deaths. While it is unclear whether the decline in the total number of cancer deaths will continue, it marks a notable milestone in the battle against cancer. The estimates are included in the 55th edition of Cancer Facts & Figures, which projects that in 2006, approximately 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and 565,000 will die of the disease.

"The drop in the actual number of cancer deaths in 2003 and in our own projections for 2006 mark a remarkable turn in our decades-long fight to eliminate cancer as a major health threat," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, American Cancer Society chief executive officer. "For years, we've proudly pointed to dropping cancer death rates even as a growing and aging population meant more actual deaths. Now, for the first time, the advances we've made in prevention, early detection, and treatment are outpacing even the population factors that in some ways obscured that success."

Since 1952, when the first edition of the publication consisted of four typewritten pages, Cancer Facts & Figures has become a critical tool for scientists and journalists reporting on cancer trends. The annual estimates of new cancer cases and deaths are some of the most widely quoted cancer statistics in the world. The Society's leading team of epidemiologic researchers compiles and analyzes incidence and mortality data from around the country to estimate the number of new cancer cases and deaths for the current year nationwide and in individual states. Other highlights from this year's publication:

  • In 2006, an estimated 1,399,790 new cancer cases and 564,830 deaths from cancer are expected in the United States.


  • Incidence and death rates from lung cancer continue to decrease in men. Among women the lung cancer incidence rate has leveled off but death rates continue to increase. Lung cancer remains the top cause of cancer death in the U.S, with an estimated 174,470 new cases and 162,460 deaths expected this year.

  • Kentucky has the highest lung cancer death rate in the U.S. Expected lung cancer deaths in Kentucky in 2006 (3,500) rival that of Massachusetts (3,790), a state with more than 50 percent more residents*.

  • Breast cancer remains the most common cancer other than skin cancer among women in the U.S., with an estimated 212,920 new cases and 40,970 deaths expected in 2006. Despite increasing incidence, the death rate from breast cancer continues to fall.

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer other than skin cancer among men in the U.S., with an estimated 234,460 new cases and 27,350 deaths expected in 2006. Although death rates have decreased since the early 1990s, rates in African American men remain more than twice as high as rates in white men.

Cancers that can be prevented or detected earlier by following the Society's testing guidelines account for approximately half of all new cancer cases in the United States. Scientific evidence suggests that about half of the cancer deaths expected in the United States will be related to tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese. The Great American Health CheckSM is an easy, confidential, online health assessment tool available year-round at cancer.org/healthcheck to raise national awareness of early cancer detection tests and the benefits of following a healthy lifestyle. The tool was developed by the American Cancer Society and is made possible by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company ("MetLife"), with additional support from official sponsors Quest Diagnostics and Bayer Aspirin