US cancer deaths dropped 27% over 25 years

A 25-year decline led to a 27 percent decrease in the U.S. cancer death rate — translating to about 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths between 1991 and 2016, a study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians found.

The data stem from Cancer Statistics, 2019, the American Cancer Society's yearly report on cancer rates and trends. 

Five report findings:

1. The U.S. cancer death rate has dropped steadily to 156 deaths (per 100,000 population) in 2016 since its peak of 215.1 deaths in 1991 — a decline of 27 percent. The finding translates to about 2,629,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have taken place if mortality rates had stayed at their peak.

2. The researchers found the drop in cancer mortality over the last two decades is primarily the result of reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment, reflected in the declines of lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer.

3. The death rate for lung cancer dropped by 48 percent from 1990 to 2016 among men and by 23 percent from 2002 to 2016 among women, with declines accelerating among both men and women in recent years.

4. For female breast cancer, mortality dropped by 40 percent from 1989 to 2016; the death rate for prostate cancer declined 51 percent from 1993 to 2016; and colorectal cancer mortality decreased by 53 percent from 1970 to 2016.

5. Although most common cancers saw declines in mortality, death rates increased from 2012 through 2016 for liver cancer (1.2 percent per year in men; 2.6 percent per year in women) and pancreatic cancer (men only, by 0.3 percent per year).

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