Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Falling Cancer Death Rate Means 1.5 Million Lives Saved Over 20 Years


American Cancer Society report finds a 22 percent drop in deaths

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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 31, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Progress in the war against cancer has triggered a 22 percent drop in U.S. deaths over the past two decades, translating to about 1.5 million lives saved, a new American Cancer Society report finds.

Even so, the annual report also predict that within a few years, cancer will overtake heart disease as the leading killer of Americans.

That's because "the decrease in mortality rates from heart disease has been much larger than the decrease in mortality from cancer," said Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, the cancer society's vice president of surveillance and health services research.

"Cancer is a collection of maybe 200 diseases," he explained. "It's not like heart disease, where you have maybe some variation but it is a single entity compared to cancer."

In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, heart disease claimed the lives of more than 308,000 men and 288,000 women in the United States, while cancer killed more than 302,000 men and 274,000 women.

The cancer report estimates there will be more than 1,658,000 new cancer cases and over 589,000 cancer deaths in the United States in 2015 -- about 1,600 cancer-related deaths a day.

However, those numbers are still a significant improvement on the past: The report found that cancer death rates declined from about 215 per every 100,000 people in 1991 to about 169 per 100,000 in 2011.

Convincing Americans to quit smoking has been the major driver in reducing cancer deaths, Jemal said. The number of smokers has been cut in half, and now represents fewer than one of every five people in the United States.

As a result, the lung cancer death rates dropped 36 percent between 1990 and 2011 among males, and 11 percent between 2002 and 2011 among females.

Increased use of early detection tools -- such as mammography, colonoscopy and cervical exams -- has also had a tremendous impact on the war against cancer, Jemal said.

Gains for men slightly exceeded those for women. Between 2007 and 2011, the average annual decline in cancer death rates was larger for men (1.8 percent) than women (1.4 percent), the report found.

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