Cancer is a devastating illness, with the power to wreak physical, emotional,
and financial havoc on individuals and families. So when a report published
earlier this year in the American Cancer Society’s A Cancer Journal
for Clinicians suggests that we appear to be making progress against this
dreaded disease, that’s something to celebrate.
According to the report, the death rate from cancer in the United States
has declined steadily over the past two decades. As of 2015, the cancer
death rate had fallen 26% from its peak in 1991, representing nearly 2.4
million deaths prevented during this timeframe.
The overall drop in cancer death rates is largely due to decreasing death
rates for lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.
Lung cancer death rates declined 45% from 1990 to 2015 among men, and 19%
from 2002 to 2015 among women. From 2005 to 2014, the rates of new lung
cancer cases dropped by 2.5% per year in men and 1.2% per year in women.
These differences reflect historical patterns in tobacco use, where women
began smoking in large numbers many years later than men, and the higher
incidence of lung cancer in non-smoking women vs. non-smoking men.
“This report illustrates that cancer control efforts can be effective,
particularly with regard to smoking cessation,” said Frederick Regional
Health System’s Medical Director of Oncology Services Dr. Mark Soberman.
“A decline in cigarette smoking is the single most important factor
in the decline in cancer death rates. Still, tobacco remains by far the
leading cause of cancer deaths, and is still responsible for nearly 3
in 10 cancer deaths.”
Breast and Prostate Cancers
Death rates from breast cancer declined 39% from 1989 to 2015 among women.
Among men, prostate cancer death rates declined 52% from 1993 to 2015.
Reasons for this progress, including advancements in early detection,
are still being studied.
Colorectal cancer death rates declined 52% from 1970 to 2015 among men
and women, most likely because of increased screening and improvements
in treatment. Colonoscopy can detect early colon cancers and precancerous
polyps. Because it takes some time for a precancerous polyp to become
cancer, colonoscopy to detect and remove the polyp can prevent progression
to colon cancer. As a result, screening reduces deaths from colorectal
cancer both by allowing earlier diagnosis and by preventing a precancerous
polyp’s progression to colon cancer.
Cancer in Children and Adolescents
Cancer is a leading cause of death among this age group, second only to
accidents. In 2018, an estimated 10,590 children in the U.S. between the
ages of 1 and 14 will be diagnosed with cancer, and as many as 1,180 will
die from the disease. Leukemia accounts for almost a third of all childhood
cancers, followed by brain and other nervous system tumors.
While cancer incidence rates have increased in children and adolescents
by 0.6% per year since 1975, death rates have declined continuously. The
five-year relative survival rate for all cancer sites combined improved
from 58% for children diagnosed during 1975 to 1977 to 83% for those diagnosed
during 2007 to 2013.
Melanoma is the least common but most deadly skin cancer, accounting for
just 1% of all cases but the vast majority of skin cancer death. Since
2013, there has been a significant rise in the 5-year survival rates for
patients with melanoma. This is most likely due to increased education
regarding skin safety, better prevention, earlier diagnosis, improved
treatments, and more effective surgical techniques.
“It’s exciting to see these numbers coming down,” said
Dr. Soberman. “I expect that death rates will continue to decline
as we decrease tobacco use and encourage healthy lifestyles. Remember,
though, that we still have 40 million adults in this country that smoke
cigarettes, and about half of them will die of smoking-related diseases.
In fact, we think that lifestyle choices cause about 10% of cancers, which
makes them potentially avoidable. So what we’re seeing in the American
Cancer Society’s report is progress, but there is still much work
Other highlights from the report:
• An estimated 1,735,350 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2018,
which equates to more than 4,700 new cancer diagnoses each day.
• The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with cancer is 39.7%
for men and 37.6% for women, which is a little more than 1 in 3.
• The most common cancers to be diagnosed in men are prostate, lung,
and colorectal cancers, which account for 42% of all cases, with prostate
cancer alone accounting for almost 1 in 5 new diagnoses.
• The most common cancers to be diagnosed in women are breast, lung,
and colorectal cancers, which combined represent one-half of all cases.
Breast cancer alone accounts for 30% of all new cancer diagnoses in women.
• Liver cancer incidence continues to increase rapidly in women but
appears to be stabilizing in men. People infected with hepatitis C virus
(HCV) are at greater risk for liver cancer. Because 80% of HCV-infected
people are at least 55 years old, all individuals born between 1945 and
1965 should be tested for HCV.
Cancer Statistics 2018 can be viewed in its entirety at cacancerjournal.com.
Cancer Facts & Figures 2018 is available at cancer.org/statistics.
The cancer care program at Frederick Regional Health System (FRHS) offers
personalized care from expert providers in an optimum healing environment
without the burden of traveling out of Frederick County. As a certified
member of MD Cancer Network®, a program of MD Anderson, FRHS uses
nationally recognized quality management and best practices that are essential
to more effective cancer treatment. For more information on our cancer
care program, visit
fmh.org/cancercare, or call 240-566-4100.