Fewer deaths from cancer in the U.S.

According to a new report fewer Americans are dying of cancer even though the rates of new cancers remains the same.

The report, the 'Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer', has been compiled by leading cancer organizations in the U.S. and includes comprehensive data on trends over the past several decades for all major cancers.

The report shows that the long-term decline in overall cancer death rates continued through 2003 for all races and both sexes combined, but the declines were greater among men than women.

Nevertheless the rates for men still remain 46 percent higher than for women.

Death rates decreased for 11 of the 15 most common cancers in men and for 10 of the 15 most common cancers in women and this is partly attributed to successful efforts to reduce exposure to tobacco, earlier detection through screening, and more effective treatment.

The rate at which new cancers are diagnosed for both sexes and all races combined have been stable from 1992 through 2003.

The report, which appears annually, is a joint effort from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Data on new cancer diagnoses came from state and regional population-based cancer registries, and data on cancer deaths came from the CDC's National Vital Statistics System.

Among women, incidence rates decreased for:

  • colon and rectum cancers and cancers of the uterus,
  • oral cancers,
  • stomach and cervical cancers.

But they increased for:

  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL),
  • melanoma,
  • leukemia
  • and cancers of the lung, bladder, and kidney.
  • The biggest increase has been in thyroid cancer.

Among men, incidence rates have decreased for:

  • colon and rectum cancers,
  • stomach and oral cancers,
  • and lung cancer.

They have increased for:

  • prostate cancer,
  • myeloma,
  • leukemia,
  • cancers of the liver,
  • kidney and esophagus.

The researchers suggest the rising trends of some cancers are likely explained in part by changes in medical surveillance, but may also be a result of changes in risk factors.

The report includes a special section on cancer among U.S. Latino/Hispanic populations and found that for 1999 to 2003, Latinos had lower incidence rates than non-Hispanic whites (NHW) for most cancers, but were less likely than the NHW population to be diagnosed with localized stage disease for cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, prostate, female breast, and cervix.

Latino children however have higher incidence rates of leukemia, retinoblastoma, osteosarcoma, and germ cell tumors than do non-Latino white children.

Several of the cancers with higher incidence rates in Latinos often have infectious origins: human papilloma virus (HPV) in cervical cancer; Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) in stomach cancer; and Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) in liver cancer.

The report highlights possible causes, among them, lower education, health literacy, and income; limited English proficiency; reduced use of screening services; limited access to health care, due to lack of insurance; and less information available regarding possible genetic predisposition to cancer.

NCI Director John Niederhuber, M.D.says the information demonstrates a need for education on the ways to reduce cancer risks.

CDC Director Julie Gerberding, M.D. says the progress in the fight against cancer continues but there is no room for complacency and the provision of resources for prevention, screening, and early detection, and promoting healthy behaviors which are proven strategies to reduce the burden of cancer, must be ensured.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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