After peaking in 1991, cancer death rates have consistently declined. According to a report published January 5 in the American Cancer Society’s (ACS’s) journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, there was a 25% drop in cancer deaths for men and women between 1991 and 2014.
The numbers are encouraging, and reflect the progress made in the areas of awareness, early detection and cancer treatment. A reduction in tobacco smoking is also thought to have played a major role in the declining death rates.
The biggest impact in the overall decline came from reduced death rates from four cancer types – lung, breast, colorectal and prostate. However, not all other cancer groups fare equally.
Men are 20 percent more likely to get cancer and 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than women, in part due to the types of cancer that affect the two sexes. Men also drink and smoke more than women – risk factors that can lead to the development of cancer.
Liver cancer occurs in men three times more frequently than women, and males are four times more likely to get and die from esophageal, laryngeal and bladder cancers than females.
Lung cancer rates in men declined at twice the speed of those for women, and overall cancer diagnoses for men dropped 2 percent from 1991 to 2014, while rates for women remained steady. Available data from the last decade showed the cancer death rate declined about 1.5 percent annually for both men and women.
Racial disparities were also noted, and the gap appears to be closing. While black men were 21 percent more likely to die from cancer than white men in 2014, that number was 47 percent in 1991. Cancer death rates for black women dropped from 20 percent in 1998 to 13 percent in 2014.
The ACS report shows that we have made significant progress in reducing cancer deaths, but experts agree: if the decline in cancer death rates is to continue, it will require continued improvements in cancer prevention and treatment.
At Ackerman Cancer Center, we encourage all adults to routinely undergo appropriate cancer screenings including colonoscopy, annual mammography and cervical and prostate cancer screenings. Identifying cancer in the earliest stages increases the chances for effective treatment and produces better outcomes.