Report Shows Cancer Deaths Continue to Decline


American Cancer Society's annual report shows 1.5 million deaths averted over the past two decades, as well as a jump in survivorship numbers.

Each year, the American Cancer Society publishes its annual cancer statistics, highlighting gains as well as areas that need continued focus. For 2015, the organization's report shows a 22 percent decrease in cancer death over the past 20 years, equating to more than 1.5 million lives saved—a positive trend seen for the past few years.

The data, compiled from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics, can be reviewed in two reports: Cancer Statistics 2015, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and Cancer Facts & Figures 2015, which includes information on survivorship issues, side effects and patient resources.

The decline in cancer mortality appears across the country, largely due to a sharp decrease of tobacco-related lung cancer incidence that peaked in the early 1990s, as well as other advances in prevention, detection strategies for early-stage cancers and treatment. With data examined across disease sites, age ranges, geographical locations and other factors, the ACS has been able to show important gains, including a 55 percent decrease in cancer death among black men in their 40s.

The number of cancer survivors, not including those with non-melanoma skin cancer and non-invasive breast cancer, grew to 14.5 million, up from 13.7 million at the beginning of 2013. In 20 years, that number is expected to rise to nearly 20 million.

That’s the good news.

Predictions for 2015 include 1.6 million new cases of cancer, with 589,000 cancer deaths. The incidence of thyroid cancer has increased 4.5 percent from 2007 to 2011, which experts attribute partly to higher screening rates. Incidence rates for liver cancer are also increasing, as well as for melanoma, esophageal cancer and head and neck cancer caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

While declines have been seen across all states, the South shows the smallest decline. Survival rates also remain lower for minorities, particularly those with oral, uterine and bladder cancers. The authors acknowledge that further progress can be made by emphasizing prevention, early detection and access to treatment for those in low socioeconomic groups and in other disadvantaged populations.

“The continuing drops we’re seeing in cancer mortality are reason to celebrate, but not to stop,” John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement. “Cancer was responsible for nearly one in four deaths in the United States in 2011, making it the second leading cause of death overall. It is already the leading cause of death among adults aged 40 to 79, and is expected to overtake heart disease as the leading cause of death among all Americans within the next several years.”

This year’s Cancer Facts & Figures also includes a special section on non-invasive breast cancer, separated sections for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). It is estimated that non-invasive breast cancers will account for about 20 percent of breast tumors diagnosed in women. Prior to 1980, non-invasive breast cancers were rarely detected. For more information on DCIS, read CURE’sThe DCIS Dilemma” from the Fall 2014 issue.

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