Cancer-Related Death Risk Dropping At Astounding Rate

The cancer death rate is down in the United States for the 26th consecutive year.  According to a new report from the American Cancer Society, the US saw its biggest single-year drop in overall cancer deaths—a plunge of 2.2 percent—mostly because of a massive decline in lung cancer deaths.  

Lead study author Rebecca Siegel explains, “What is really driving that is the acceleration in the decline of mortality for lung cancer, and the reason that is encouraging is because lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, causing more deaths in the US than breast, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancers, combined.”

The new report includes the latest data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival in the United States according to data from several sources.  These sources include the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Program of Cancer Registries, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. 

Some of this data actually dates all the way back to 1930 with the most recent data compiled from 2017.  Analyzing this data, the report projects the estimated number of new cases (and deaths, of course) that could emerge among patients in the United States this year.  Effectively, the data showed cancer death peaked at 215 per 100,000 people back in 1991. 

Overall, though, the report says this number is down nearly 30 percent in 2017. That equates to about 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths than what would have occurred if the death rates remained at that 1991 peak. 

Siegel, who is also the American Cancer Society scientific director of surveillance research, goes on to explain “The biggest driver is the reductions in smoking, but also contributing are improvements in treatment as well as early detection for some cancers, like breast and colorectal cancer.”

Specifically, the report found the five-year relative survival rate for cancer diagnosis between 2009 and 2015 has vastly improved.  For example, survival was highest with prostate cancer (98 percent), melanoma (92 percent), and [female] breast cancer (90 percent).  The survival rate remains low, however, for cancers of the pancreas (9 percent), liver (18 percent), lung (19 percent), and esophagus (20 percent).