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Deaths from Most Cancers Drop: Report

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Cancer death rates have continued to decline in both men and women in recent years, according to a new report.

Between 2004 and 2008, cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in men, and by 1.6 percent per year in women. Overall cancer incidence rates overall that period declined by 0.6 percent per year in men and were stable in women, according to the report from the American Cancer Society.

However, rates of new cases of a few specific cancers, including pancreatic cancer and melanoma, are on the rise, according to the report.

In 2012, more than 577,000 people will die from cancer in the United States, and more than 1,638,000 people will be diagnosed with the disease, according to estimates in the report.

The report is published yearly, and is online today (Jan. 4) in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Other findings include:

  • Death rates continued to decline between 2004 and 2008 for all four major cancer sites (lung, colorectum, breast and prostate), with the drop in lung cancer's death rate accounting for almost 40 percent of the decline in men, and the drop in breast cancer's rate accounting for 34 percent of the decline in women.
  • About 1,024,400 cancer deaths (732,900 in men and 291,500 in women) were averted between 1991 and 2008 as a reflection of 18 years of consistent declines in cancer death rates.
  • Compared with Whites, African-American men and women have poorer chances of surviving once cancer is diagnosed. The five-year relative survival rate is lower in African Americans than in Whites for every stage of diagnosis, for nearly every type of cancer.
  • Further drops in the death rate could be accelerated by applying existing cancer knowledge across all segments of the population, with an emphasis on those groups in the lowest socioeconomic bracket.

A special section of the article focuses on cancers that have been on the rise, including cancers of the pancreas, liver, thyroid and kidney, as well as melanoma, esophageal adenocarcinoma and certain types of oropharyngeal cancer associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.

The reasons for these increases are not entirely known. Part of the increase may be linked to the increasing prevalence of obesity, as well as increases in early detection practices for some cancers. These rising trends will exacerbate the growing cancer burden associated with population expansion and aging, the researchers say.

The report is based on data from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The expected numbers of new cancer cases and cancer deaths should be interpreted with caution because these estimates are based on statistical models and may vary considerably from year to year, according to the report.

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Live Science Staff
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