The rate of cancer deaths in the United States saw the sharpest decline on record from 2016 to 2017 as new treatments and technologies improved survival rates, according to an American Cancer Society report published Wednesday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
The researchers found that from 2016 to 2017 the U.S. cancer death rate decreased by a record 2.2%. On average, the cancer death rate has dropped 1.5% annually over the past decade, Bloomberg reports.
The researchers noted that the overall decline in the U.S. cancer death rate between 1991 and 2017 has been driven by long-term drops in death rates for breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer. Overall, the cancer death rate dropped 29% between 1991 and 2017. The researchers also noted that the decline in deaths from lung cancer has accelerated in recent years, helping drive the record drop in cancer deaths in 2017.
According to the report, the decline in lung cancer deaths among men accelerated from 3% annually during 2008 through 2013 to 5% during 2013 through 2017. Among women, the decline accelerated from 2% to about 4%.
But despite those declines the researchers projected that in 2020, lung cancer will remain the leading cause of death in the United States:
The researchers in the report cited advances in technology and treatment for the larger than average decline in U.S. cancer deaths. For instance, they said video-assisted surgery has helped improve survival rates for lung cancer patients. According to Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the report, this technology means surgeons can now operate on more patients with early lung tumors.
In addition, said the Wall Street Journal reports drugs such as Roche's Zelbora— which targets the molecular roots of a tumors, and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy, which uses a patient's immune system to combat cancer—have reduced cancer death rates among patients with melanoma.
The researchers also found that the incidence of some cancers are rising. For example, the researchers found the incidence rates of kidney, liver, , melanoma, oral cavity, pancreas and pharynx are increasing.he The researchers noted liver cancer incidence rates increased most rapidly, at a rate of 2% to 3% annually from 2007 through 2016.
Despite the decline in the overall cancer death, the report found that cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. According to the report, approximately 1.8 million cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2020.
The report also projected that 606,520 Americans will die from cancer this year, with the total number of deaths varying by state.
Siegel said, "The news this year is mixed. The exciting gains in reducing mortality for melanoma and lung cancer are tempered by slowing progress for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers, which are amenable to early detection. It's a reminder that increasing our investment in the equitable application of existing cancer control interventions, as well as basic and clinical research to further advance treatment, would undoubtedly accelerate progress against cancer."
William Cance, ACS' chief medical and scientific officer, said, "The accelerated drops in lung cancer mortality as well as in melanoma that we're seeing are likely due at least in part to advances in cancer treatment over the past decade, such as immunotherapy. They are a profound reminder of how rapidly this area of research is expanding, and now leading to real hope for cancer patients" (Langreth, Bloomberg, 1/8; Abbott, Wall Street Journal, 1/8; ACS release, 1/8).
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