Cancer Deaths Down Two Years In A Row

Armen Hareyan's picture

Fewer people died of cancer in 2004 than in 2003, marking the second consecutive year that cancer deaths have declined in the United States, a new American Cancer Society report shows. According to Cancer Statistics 2007, there were 3,014 fewer cancer deaths in 2004 compared to the previous year. The report is published in the latest issue of the ACS journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

That number is much higher than the drop of 369 deaths reported between 2003 and 2002. And that suggests the trend is more than just a statistical blip, experts say.

"This second consecutive drop in the number of actual cancer deaths, much steeper than the first, shows last year's historic drop was no fluke," says John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "The hard work towards preventing cancer, catching it early, and making treatment more effective is paying dramatic, lifesaving dividends."

The CA article and its companion piece, Cancer Facts & Figures 2007, are yearly ACS reports that estimate the number of cancer cases and deaths in the coming year. For 2007, an estimated 1,444,920 new cases of cancer are expected, along with 559,650 cancer deaths.

Cancer Rates Declining for Most Major Cancers

The number of breast cancer cases in the US has leveled off in recent years, according to Facts & Figures. In 2007, 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected. Breast cancer death rates have been dropping steadily since 1990, the report says, because of earlier detection and better treatments. About 40,910 breast cancer deaths are expected in 2007.

Death rates from prostate cancer are also declining. About 27,050 deaths are expected in 2007. Some 218,890 new cases are expected.

Both incidence and death rates have dropped for colorectal cancer in recent years. Around 112,340 cases and 52,180 deaths are expected in 2007.


Lung cancer remains the top cancer killer among both men and women, the report shows. Around 160,390 deaths are expected in 2007. About 213,380 people are expected to develop lung cancer. Incidence and death rates among women have flattened in recent years, but fewer men are getting lung cancer or dying from it.

The Facts & Figures report shows that African-Americans are still much more likely than any other group to develop cancer and die from it. Hispanics, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have lower rates of most cancers than whites, but tend to have higher rates of cancers that may be linked to infections, such as cervical cancer and liver cancer.

This year's estimates are more accurate than those of previous years, researchers say, because they were derived with a new statistical method that uses data from 86% of the US population; the method used until now only covered about 10% of the population.

Cancer Pain Treatable

The special section in this year's Facts & Figures focuses on cancer pain and how to treat it. The report says many people with cancer think pain is something they have to suffer through, when in fact many effective treatments are available. These range from over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, to opioids like morphine, and even acupuncture and massage. Moreover, these treatments can be given without causing addiction or making the person too woozy to go about normal daily activities.

The report says cancer survivors and doctors should discuss pain at every visit, and treat it promptly. ACS has developed patient guidelines for pain control in cooperation with the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Lifestyle Factors Still Important For Cancer

As in previous years, the Facts & Figures report includes a discussion of the lifestyle factors that influence the development and progression of cancer. About 30% of cancer deaths in the US are caused by smoking, and other forms of tobacco like snuff and chew also can raise the risk of cancer.

Another third of cancer deaths are linked to nutrition and physical activity. In fact, for most people who do not smoke, these factors are the most important for affecting cancer risk. ACS guidelines for nutrition and physical activity recommend keeping weight in a healthy range, getting plenty of exercise, and eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and veggies to help reduce cancer risk.