While overall cancer death rate for men and women fell between 2014 and 2018, fatality rates for a handful of cancers increased—or stalled after recent improvements, according to a report from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Charted: Cancer fatality rates
Overall, the report found that the fatality rate for cancer among men and women declined between 2001 and 2018. Among men, a 1.8% annual decline from 2001 to 2015 accelerated to a 2.3% annual decline between 2015 and 2018, while for women, a 1.4% annual decline between 2001 to 2015 accelerated to a 2.1% annual decline between 2015 and 2018.
For men, the report found, the death rates for five cancers, including cancers of the bone and joints, oral cavity and pharynx, brain, and pancreas, increased, while death rates for 11 other cancers decreased.
Meanwhile, according to the report, among women, death rates for five of the most common cancers, including cancers of the uterus, liver, brain, and pancreas, increased between 2014 and 2018, while death rates for 14 other cancers decreased.
The report also found that, between 2014 and 2018, the cancer fatality rate declined by an average of 1.4% annually among children and by 0.9% annually among adolescents and young adults.
Charted: Cancer incidence rates
The report also found that, between 2013 and 2017, the incidence rate of six cancers among men declined, including cancers of the lung and bronchus, larynx, urinary bladder, colon and rectum, stomach, and brain and other nervous system (ONS). However, incidence rates increased for five other cancers among men: cancers of the testis, skin, kidney and renal pelvis, oral cavity and pharynx, and pancreas.
Similarly, between 2013 and 2017, the incidence rate of six cancers among women declined—cancers of the ovary, lung and bronchus, colon and rectum, urinary bladder, thyroid, and brain and ONS—while the incidence rates increase for eight of the 18 most common cancers, including cancers of the liver and intrahepatic bile duct, melanoma of the skin, corpus and uterus, myeloma, pancreas, kidney and renal pelvis, breast, and oral cavity and pharynx.
The report also found that, between 2013 and 2017, the cancer incidence rate increased by an average of 0.7% annually among children and by 0.9% annually for adolescents and young adults.
NIC cautioned that, because its data ended in 2018, it did not cover the period of the Covid-19 pandemic—a time when routine cancer screenings declined sharply. According to NIC, the coronavirus-related drop in screening and treatments for breast and colorectal cancer will likely drive 10,000 additional deaths over the next decade.
Even so, Ned Sharpless, director of the NCI, said in a statement the decline in cancer death rates "should be gratifying to the cancer research community, as evidence that scientific advances over several decades are making a real difference in outcomes at the population level."
Sharpless added that cancer death rates could decline even further "if we address obesity, which has the potential to overtake tobacco use to become the leading modifiable factor associated with cancer."
Separately, Karen Hacker, director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said the report was "encouraging."
"To dismantle existing health disparities and give everyone the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, we must continue to find innovative ways to reach people across the cancer care continuum—from screening and early detection to treatment and support for survivors," Hacker added. (Fernandez, Axios, 7/8; NCI release, 7/8)