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U.S. Cancer Deaths Drop for 2nd Year in a Row

Declines seen in lung, breast, prostate and colorectal malignancies, report says

TUESDAY, Jan. 16, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- The number of cancer deaths in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, the first such decreases since researchers started keeping national statistics more than 70 years ago.

The most recent decline was much larger than the year before with 3,014 fewer deaths reported between 2003 and 2004, compared to 369 fewer deaths from 2002 to 2003.

"This second consecutive drop in the number of actual cancer deaths, much steeper than the first, shows last year's historic drop was no fluke," John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a prepared statement.

"Everyone involved in the fight against cancer should be proud of this remarkable achievement," he added. "The hard work towards preventing cancer, catching it early, and making treatment more effective is paying dramatic, lifesaving dividends. Thirteen years of continuing drops in the overall cancer death rate have now overtaken trends in aging and growth of the U.S. population, resulting in decreased numbers of deaths."

Based on a new, more accurate method of projection that includes a larger sample -- 86 percent -- of the U.S. population, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 559,650 cancer deaths in 2007 -- 289,550 among men and 270,100 among women. This translates into about 1,500 deaths a day. The society also predicts that 1,444,920 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year.

According to the cancer society report, in 2004 in the United States, 553,888 people died of cancer, compared with 556,902 the year before, the most recent statistics available.

The 2004 decline in deaths were seen among all four major cancer types -- lung, breast, prostate and colorectal, with the exception of lung cancer in women, which increased by 0.3 percent between 1995 and 2003.

Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La., said, "The number of deaths in the four main cancers declining shows that people are paying attention to screening recommendations, to not smoking in public, to avoiding tobacco in all places and that treatment does make an impact on improving lives."

The biggest drop in the number of deaths was seen in colorectal cancer.

The incidence rates of breast cancer in women stabilized from 2001 to 2003, after experiencing an increase since 1980. This may be a result of increased screening and a reduction in the use of hormone-replacement therapy following release of the results of the Women's Health Initiative in 2002, the report stated.

The new statistics appear in a report released Wednesday called Cancer Statistics 2007, published in the January/February issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, as well as in Cancer Facts & Figures 2007. The report has been published annually by the American Cancer Society since 1952. This year's report was released early to coincide with a visit by President Bush to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Some other highlights from this year's report:

  • More than half of all newly diagnosed cancers among men are prostate; lung and bronchus; and colon and rectum malignancies. Prostate cancer alone accounts for 29 percent of cases in men.
  • Among women, the three most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in 2007 will be breast, lung and bronchus, and colon and rectum. These will account for 52 percent of estimated cancer cases among women, while breast cancer alone will account for 26 percent of new cases.
  • Lung cancer will account for more than one quarter (26 percent) of female cancer deaths in 2007. This type of cancer overtook breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in women in 1987.
  • The incidence of lung cancer among men is declining and has stabilized among women after increasing for several decades.
  • Black men have a 15 percent higher cancer incidence rate and 38 percent higher death rate than white men. Black women have a 9 percent lower incidence rate but an 18 percent higher death rate than white women for all cancers.
  • Among children aged 1 to 14, cancer is the second leading cause of death, after accidents. The five-year survival rate has improved from 58 percent for children diagnosed in 1975 through 1977, to 79 percent for those diagnosed from 1996 to 2002.

This year's report also includes a special section on cancer-related pain. About one in three patients newly diagnosed with cancer, 30 percent to 50 percent of those undergoing treatment, and 70 percent to 90 percent of those with advanced cancer suffer from pain. Cancer-associated pain can be controlled with proper treatment, the report said.

More information

View the full report at the American Cancer Society.

SOURCES: Cancer Statistics 2007, Jan. 17, 2007; Jay Brooks, M.D., chairman, hematology/oncology, Ochsner Health System, Baton Rouge, La.
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