Facts and Figures from 2018: Rate of Deaths From Cancer Continues Decline

Cancer mortality drops another 1.7%

The US death rate from cancer has declined steadily over the past 2 decades, according to annual statistics reporting from the American Cancer Society. According to the ACS, as of 2015, the cancer death rate for men and women combined had fallen 26% from its peak in 1991. This decline in deaths translates to nearly 2.4 million averted during this time period.

The rate of new cancer diagnoses decreased by about 2% per year during the most recent decade of available data, in men and stayed about the same in women.

Cancer Statistics, 2018 published in the American Cancer Society’s journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths expected in the US this year. The estimates are some of the most widely quoted cancer statistics in the world. The information is also released in a companion report, Cancer Facts and Figures 2018, available on the interactive website, the Cancer Statistics Center. A total of 1,735,350 new cancer cases and 609,640 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the US in 2018.

The drop in cancer mortality is thought to be mostly due to two major factors; steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment. A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates. However, tobacco remains by far the leading cause of cancer deaths, responsible for nearly 3 in 10 cancer deaths.

Major cancer types: Lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer

The overall drop in cancer death rates is largely due to decreasing death rates for lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

Prostate cancer death rates declined 52% from 1993 to 2015 among men. Routine screening with the PSA blood test is no longer recommended because of concerns about high rates of over-diagnosis (finding cancers that would never need to be treated). Therefore, fewer cases of prostate cancer are now being detected.

Lung cancer death rates declined 45% from 1990 to 2015 among men and 19% from 2002 to 2015 among women. From 2005 to 2014, the rates of new lung cancer cases dropped by 2.5% per year in men and 1.2% per year in women. The differences reflect historical patterns in tobacco use, where women began smoking in large numbers many years later than men, and were slower to quit.

Breast cancer death rates declined 39% from 1989 to 2015 among women. The progress is attributed to improvements in early detection.

Colorectal cancer death rates declined 52% from 1970 to 2015 among men and women because of increased screening and improvements in treatment. However, between 2006 and 2015, the death rate among adults younger than 55 increased by 1% per year.

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