Data newly compiled by the American Cancer Society finds death rates for most major cancers continue to decline, but a growing and aging population continues to produce a rise in the total number of cancer deaths.
Each year, the American Cancer Society estimates the number of new cancer cases and deaths expected in the United States in the current year and compiles the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival rates. This year’s study, published in the January/February 2004 issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, shows death rates have decreased by 1.5 percent per year since 1992 among men, and remained stable from 1998 through 2000 in women.
Death rates continued to drop for the top three cancer killers in men (cancers of the lung, colon and prostate) and for the second- and third-ranked cancer killers in women (cancers of the breast, and colon).
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among women, and the death rate continues to rise, though at a much slower pace. The study estimates 1.368 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and 563,700 will die of the disease. Other highlights of the report include:
- Approximately 1,500 Americans a day will die of cancer in 2004, accounting for about one in four deaths (second only to heart disease)
- Cancer is the leading cause of death in women 40 to 79 and men 60 to 79
- Cancer is the leading cause of death in Americans under age 65
- African American men and women have 40 percent and 20 percent respectively higher mortality from all cancers combined compared with White men and women
- Among men, prostate, lung, and colon cancers account for more than half (55 percent) of all newly diagnosed cancers
- Prostate cancer is expected to account for a third (33 percent) of cancers in men.
- Nearly nine in ten prostate cancers (86 percent) will be diagnosed at a localized stage, when the five-year relative survival rate is 100 percent
- Among women, breast, lung, and colon cancers account for more than half (55 percent) of all newly diagnosed cancers
- Breast cancer is expected to account for nearly one-third (32 percent) of all new cancer cases in women
- Lung cancer incidence rates are declining in men, but still increasing among women, although the rate of increase has slowed
- Prostate cancer and female breast cancer incidence rates continue to increase, in part due to increased screening through PSA tests and mammograms, respectively
- Cancer is the second leading cause of death among children between 1 and 14
- The outlook has improved significantly for many childhood cancers, with five-year survival rates for all cancers combined rising from 56 percent in 1974 thru 1976 to 78 percent for those diagnosed from 1992 to 1999
“Estimates of new cancer cases and cancer deaths should always be interpreted with caution,” said Michael J. Thun, MD, MS, the Society’s vice president of epidemiology and surveillance research and co-author of the report. “They can vary from year to year, especially with rare cancers. Still, our estimates do provide evidence of current cancer patterns in the US that we can use to help achieve our mission to reduce the public health burden of cancer.”
This year, the ACS used a new method to project the expected number of cancer deaths. The ACS collaborated with statisticians from the National Cancer Institute, who developed the method and did extensive testing (using historical information) to determine that the method improved the accuracy of the projections. The new method is better at projecting deaths during periods when death rates are changing rapidly.