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Death Rates From Cancer Continue To Fall In The U.S.

While skin cancer is certainly not “just skin cancer,” and in fact a very serious form of cancer, the survival rates are generally higher than other cancers. The 5-year survival rate for a treated melanoma is over 98%, and squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas have similarly high survival rates when caught early. However, skin cancer is cancer, and it’s very serious. Getting diagnosed puts you at higher risk for future diagnoses, so it’s important to stay diligent.

A decline in deaths from cancer

In other cancer news, death rates from many other common cancers have continued a 25-year decline throughout the United States. From 1991-2016, the overall death rate from cancer declined 27%, resulting in an estimated 2.6 million fewer deaths. Cancer is currently the second leading cause of death in the US.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) annual report, Cancer Statistics 2019, projects that more than 4,800 cases of cancer will be diagnosed each day. Monitoring and modeling new cancer rates and trends, the report considers gender, age, and cancer type.1,2

The probability of being diagnosed with invasive cancer is 39.3% for men and 37.7% for women. The differential between men and women is not completely understood. Contributing factors include hormones, environmental exposures and their interactions.2

Leading causes of cancer deaths

In the US, around 1,700 deaths from cancer are expected each day with 25% of those attributable to lung cancer.1,2 There are some gender-associated differences. For men, lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers are most prevalent. For women, lung, breast, and colorectal are the leading causes.2

Decline in lung cancer among men

Although lung cancer is recognized as the leading cause of cancer death in men and women, the incidence of new cases is declining twice as quickly among men than women. This is likely because more women from certain age groups became smokers during the 20th century. According to the available data, death rates for lung cancer dropped 48% from 1990 to 2016 among men and by 23% from 2002 to 2016 among women. This is due in part to smoking cessation and advances in early detection and treatment.1,2

Mortality rates differing between men and women

In the last decade, death rates from cancer declined around 2% per year in men and have been more stable in women. The number of deaths avoided is larger for men than for women reflecting the total decline in cancer mortality, 34% vs 24%.1,2 Half of all cancers diagnosed in women are breast, lung and colorectal cancer, with breast cancer representing nearly one third of all new cancer diagnoses.2 Meanwhile, mortality rates for breast cancer have dropped by 40% over the last 25 years. This is due in part to earlier diagnoses and improved and targeted treatments.

Prostate, lung and colorectal cancers represent 42% of all cases in men.2 However, mortality rates for prostate cancer declined 51% from 1993 to 2016. These changes are attributable in part to identification of disease at an earlier stage due to PSA screening and advances in treatment. These rates have stabilized in recent years.2

  1. Harrison, P. Cancer Mortality Continues to Spiral Downward in the US - Medscape - Jan 08, 2019. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/907354?src=wnl_edit_tpal&uac=277849HV&impID=1855124&faf=1. Accessed 1.12.19.
  2. Siegel, R. Miller, K., Jemal, A. Cancer statistics, 2019. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21551. Accessed 1.15.19

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