Overall Cancer Death Rates Have Declined, But Rates Among Racial/Ethnic Minorities Have Not Followed Suit

By 2019, lung cancer mortality rates decreased by 5.4% in males since 2015, while deaths from ovary cancer have also declined rapidly over the past 2 decades.

Cancer mortality rates are decreasing overall, with rising incidence rates impacting males and females, according to the authors of a report published in the American Cancer Society Journal that is based on research from a collective that includes the American Cancer Society (ASC), CDC, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR). However, patients in racial/ethnic minorities were observed to continue to be disproportionality affected by cancer.

“The increases in incidence rates for several common cancers in part reflect changes in risk factors, screening test use, and diagnostic practice,” wrote study authors in the report. “Racial/ethnic differences exist in cancer incidence and mortality, highlighting the need to understand and address inequities.”

Difference in cancer mortality rates were apparent in cases of uterine cancer, with a 2-times higher mortality rate among Black females. Among patients with breast cancer, mortality rates were 40% higher in Black patients compared to White patients between 2015 and 2019.

Additionally, cancer incidence rates were higher among males than females between 2014 and 2018. Among male cancer patients, these rates were higher in Black patients.

Since 1998, the ASC, CDC, NCI, and NAACCR have collaborated in a research collective to update cancer occurrence and trends in the United States. They consider factors such as cancer type, sex, age group, and racial/ethnic groups, collecting statistics on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival.

This report discussed pancreatic cancer at length, with patients having increasing incidences and deaths, even though “cancer death rates continued to decline overall, for children, and for adolescents and young adults,” study authors wrote in the report.

Mortality has also declined among patients with colorectal cancer and female patients with breast cancer. Since 2013, mortality from liver cancer did not worsen in males—and mortality in females patients reached similar stabilization in 2014.

But the report presents data that show pancreatic cancer incidence is rapidly increasing, as are cancers of the kidney and testis in males. In females, cancers such as melanoma, liver cancer, and myeloma are increasing.

Mortality rates are not necessarily increasing at the same rate though. A 2021 report observed overall increased survival in melanoma patients, even with increasing incidence—in part, this may result from more targeted treatments and immune checkpoint inhibitors.

Significant data suggest that incidence of childhood cancer is increasing in racial/ethnic groups. Adults in racial/ethnic groups have been disproportionality affected by lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer death in this population. Black females also had noticeably higher rates of aggressive breast cancer subtypes that may be associated with “residential segregation, neighborhood disadvantage, and lower neighborhood socioeconomic status,” study authors wrote in the report.

The research collective encourages learning about disparities in cancer incidence and mortality in racial/ethnic groups, while understanding factors of inequality that affect these outcomes.

“Population-based incidence and mortality data inform prevention, early detection, and treatment efforts to help reduce the cancer burden in the United States,” study authors wrote in the report.

Reference

Cronin, Kathleen, Scott, Susan, Firth, Albert, et al. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, part 1: National cancer statistics. ASC Journals. October 27, 2022. Accessed on October 27, 2022. https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/cncr.34479?ACSTrackingID=USCDC_9_13-DM92647&ACSTrackingLabel=DCPC%20Announcement%3A%20Annual%20Report%20on%20the%20Status%20of%20Cancer&deliveryName=USCDC_9_13-DM92647