Cancer death rates have steadily declined for the past 20 years—a 20 percent drop in the overall risk of dying from cancer over that period, according to the American Cancer Society's annual Cancer Statistics report (CA Cancer J Clin 2014;64:9-29). The report estimates there will be 1,665,540 new cancer cases and 585,720 cancer deaths in the U.S. this year. Lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancers continue to be the most common causes of cancer death, accounting for almost half of the total cancer deaths among men and women.
The report found that during the most recent five years for which there are data (2006 to 2010), cancer incidence rates declined by 0.6 percent per year in men and were stable in women, while cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in men and 1.4 percent per year in women.
The combined cancer death rate has been continuously declining for two decades, from a peak of 215.1 deaths per 100,000 cases of cancer in 1991 to 171.8 per 100,000 in 2010. This 20 percent decline translates to the avoidance of approximately 1,340,400 cancer deaths (952,700 among men and 387,700 among women) during this time period.
Other noteworthy findings from the report include:
- Reductions in death rates have been most rapid for middle-aged black men; death rates have declined by approximately 50 percent among this group (although black men still continue to have the highest cancer incidence and death rates among all ethnicities in the U.S., approximately double those of Asian Americans, who have the lowest rates);
- For men, prostate, lung, and colon cancer will account for about half of all newly diagnosed cancers, with prostate cancer alone accounting for about one in four cases;
- For women, the three most common cancers in 2014 will be breast, lung, and colon, which together will account for half of all cases (breast cancer is expected to account for 29 percent of all new cancers among women); and
- Approximately one in four cancer deaths is due to lung cancer.
“The progress we are seeing is good, even remarkable, but we can and must do even better,” ACS CEO John R. Seffrin, PhD, said in a news release. “The halving of the risk of cancer death among middle-aged black men in just two decades is extraordinary, but it is immediately tempered by the knowledge that death rates are still higher among black men than white men for nearly every major cancer and for all cancers combined.”
Incidence data for the report were collected from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North American Association of Cancer Registries, and mortality data for the report were collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. The data are disseminated in two reports—“Cancer Statistics,” published in CA and its companion article, “Cancer Facts & Figures,” available online at www.cancer.org/statistics.