Cancer Rates Continue to Decline As Some Cancers Are Still Up

Trends reported in a recent study suggest that some cancers are on the decline; however, experts stress the need for continued research to combat rising rates in several key areas.

A new report by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), revealed that the national cancer rates continue to decline—a sign that the country is moving in the right direction, but vigilance and education are key. The rates of new cases and deaths from all cancers decreased significantly from 1999 to 2006 for men and women as well as for racial and ethnic populations in the United States, according to the report published in the online journal Cancer.

The types of cancer with the largest declines for men are lung, prostate, and colorectal, while for women the declines are in breast and colorectal cancer. New diagnoses for all types of cancer are down almost 1%, and cancer deaths decreased 1.6% per year from 2001 to 2006. Early detection through screening, prevention based on a healthy lifestyle, and better treatment options are all significant parts of the reduction, but continued research and vigilance are needed.

Some cancers, however, are not on the decline, according to the report. “Progress has been more limited for certain types of cancer, including many cancers that are currently less amenable to screening, such as cancer of the esophagus, liver, and pancreas,” said Betsy Kohler, Executive Director of NAACCR. Men saw greater declines in cancer diagnoses, but overall, the death rate and incidence of cancer for men still remain much higher than for women. The incidences of kidney, liver, and esophageal cancer and leukemia, myeloma, and melanoma are up for men. For women, lung, thyroid, pancreatic, bladder, and kidney cancers, as well as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanoma, and leukemia, are all on the rise.

The report contains a special section on colorectal cancer, which could see a 36% decline by 2020 if current trends persist. “The extraordinary progress in colorectal cancer shows what can be achieved by coordinated and targeted efforts to apply existing knowledge to cancer control at the state and federal level,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the ACS. For more information, visit www.cancer.org.