US cancer rates continue to fall
Cancer rates in the United States continue to drop, a new report says.
Since 1999, the rate of cancer in the U.S. has dropped .5 percent each year. The death rate of adult cancer patients has also annually dropped by about 1.5 percent since that year, according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status on Cancer, 1975-2008.
“The news of the declining incidence of certain cancers as well as a declining death rate for certain cancers is obviously very welcome,” said Dr. Nader Sanai, director of the Division of Neurosurgical Oncology and the Barrow Brain Tumor Research Center at the Barrow Neurological institute. “Much of the credit goes to nationwide as well as worldwide efforts in cancer prevention.”
A group of government agencies and organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society compiled the report, which has been issued annually since 1998. The report includes almost every reported cancer case in the nation through 2008.
Dr. Michael Bookman, professor of medicine and the chief of Arizona Cancer Center’s Hematology/Oncology section, said that although the “large-scale success stories” like cervical cancer screenings and targeted treatment of specific cancer gene mutations are “very impressive,” cancer research has a long way to go.
“These game-changing paradigms do not yet apply to many of our more stubborn cancer problems,” he said. “Instead, we see steady evidence of small-scale incremental improvements, as illustrated in this updated report.”
The report found that cancer rates have decreased because of better cancer screenings, advances in treament and preventative efforts, like reducing cigarette smoking.
However, while death rates for lung, breast, prostate and colon cancer all continue to drop, the rate of skin cancer cases and deaths has increased. This has been linked to the increased use of tanning beds in recent years, health officials say.
“I think this is a future epidemic in the making,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.
In addition to skin cancer, the report also cites the nation’s weight problem as a cause behind the rise of esophagus, uterus, pancreas and kidney cancers. Two-thirds of adults were overweight or obese, the report shows, and extra weight affects insulin production and specific hormones that play a role in cancer growth.
Lifestyle factors and advances in medicine play a role in the drop of cancer rates.
“These changes are related to education, evaluation of risk factors, lifestyle interventions, enhanced detection of early-stage disease, more effective treatment of advanced disease and better supportive care for our patients,” Bookman said.
Cancer experts like Bookman, however, say the future is bright in the field of cancer prevention.
“We still have much to learn. Hopefully, we can reverse recent trends, and increase support for high-priority translational biomedical research,” he said.