Although there hasn’t been much of a shift in the number of new cancer cases, the most recent figures from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the United States show a steady drop in the number of Americans who die from cancer.
According to a statement released by the NCI on Thursday, “Overall cancer death rates declined by 2.1% per year in men and women combined from 2015 to 2019.”
As per US News, two significant cancer categories saw the biggest decreases in fatal cancers: Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, saw a 4% yearly decline from 2015 to 2019, whereas melanoma-related deaths saw a 5% annual decline.
According to NCI Director Dr. Monica Bertagnolli, “the findings in this year’s Annual Report to the Nation illustrate our sustained progress against cancer, continuing a more than two-decade trend of reducing mortality that reflects improvements in preventing, detecting, and treating cancer.” The improvements revealed in the research highlight the significance of collaborating across society to create equitable, effective strategies to combat this complicated disease.
However, the actual number of new cancer cases has not changed. According to the NCI, cancer incidence rates in both men and women were largely unchanged between 2014 and 2018. “During this time, incidence rates among men were steady, but incidence rates among women increased by 0.2% annually.”
When the agency looked at tumor types, it found increases in new cases of pancreatic, kidney, and testicular cancers in males and breast, liver, melanoma, kidney, blood (myelomas), and pancreatic and oral cavity/pharynx cancers in women.
The NCI continued by saying that not all Americans experienced the decline in cancer deaths equally. For instance, between 2015 and 2019, fewer Hispanic men died from prostate cancer than Black or White men, but no such decline was observed.
Additionally, whereas most women saw a decline in breast and colon cancer-related deaths, American Indian women saw an increase in fatal breast cancer cases and a constant rate of colon cancer fatalities.
Dr. Lisa Richardson, head of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in the statement: “Factors like race, ethnicity and socioeconomic position should not play a part in people’s ability to be healthy, or decide how long they live.”
The report this year also looked more closely at pancreatic cancer, which is frequently fatal because it’s typically discovered only when it’s advanced.
According to the NCI, the number of new cases of pancreatic cancer increased by 1% annually between 2001 and 2018, and the number of people dying from the disease increased by 0.2% annually between 2001 and 2019. The NCI did observe that patients with some kinds of pancreatic cancers did have an improvement in survival over time. That may be because of advancements in medicine.
According to Betsy Kohler, executive director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, “Pancreatic cancer incidence and survival reflect both the underlying risk of disease as well as the difficulties of finding pancreatic cancer at a therapeutic stage.”
The statement from Kohler continued, “We are hoping for significant gains in pancreatic cancer survival, which has historically been a very lethal cancer type. As advances in screening technology and effective treatments for early-stage disease become available.”