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Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer Shows a Decrease in Overall Cancer Deaths


Photo by Cancer Type

The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer has shown that death rates for lung cancer, which accounts for more than one in four cancer deaths, are dropping at a faster pace than in previous years. The report was coauthored by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

The larger drop in lung cancer deaths is likely the result of decreased cigarette smoking over many years, and is now being reflected in incidence rates and mortality trends. The lung cancer death rate decline, as well as declines in colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer death rates, has also helped drive de­creases in death rates for all cancer types combined. The decreased death rates for these four cancers accounted for more than two-thirds of the overall reduction in cancer death rates from 2001 through 2010. However, the Re­port, published online in the journal Cancer, showed that, in this 10-year period, death rates increased for some cancers, including cancers of the liver and pancreas, cancers of the uterus in women, and melanoma of the skin and cancers of the soft tissue in men.

“More and more Americans are win­ning the battle against cancer and are living long, healthy, and productive lives.”

“Cancer rates are edging down for both new cases and for deaths, which is definitely good news,” notes NAACCR director Betsy Kohler. “But there are still too many cancer types that require a rededication of effort to help get those rates reversed so that we’re showing real progress for all forms of cancer.”

The special feature of this year’s Report highlights the prevalence of other disease conditions in people with cancer over 65 years of age, as well as how these conditions affect survival. Studying comorbid conditions (two or more med­ical conditions occurring at the same time in one individual) is especially important because cancer is primarily a disease of aging, and the prevalence of comorbidi­ties also increases with age. The Report shows that one-third of people in this study population have comorbidities (with a higher frequency of comorbidi­ties in people with lung or colorectal cancer) and that survival is influenced by the presence of other medical conditions as well as the type of cancer, stage at diagnosis, and a person’s age.

“More and more Americans are win­ning the battle against cancer and are living long, healthy, and productive lives,” says CDC director Tom Frieden, MD. “However, cancer patients with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, have special challenges. It’s critical for healthcare providers to have the full picture of their patients’ health so they can provide the best treatment possible for the patient overall, and for their cancer.”

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This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2014.