Author: Sean Patterson

Though cancer hasn’t been completely cured, it’s clear that treatments for the disease have improved over the past two decades. A yearly report from the American Cancer Society has shown that the death rate from cancer in the U.S. is declining among all Americans and for the most common types of cancer.

The report, published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, shows that the death rate from all cancers combined has been falling since the early 1990. From 2000 to 2009, combined cancer death rates have fallen an average of 1.8% among men and 1.4% among women. Black men and black women saw the largest declines in cancer deaths from 2000 to 2009, though their cancer death rates from 2005 to 2009 were still highest when compared to other racial groups.

Though death rates for cancers such as lung cancer , breast cancer, and colon cancer are declining, the rate of diagnoses for some cancers is increasing. The rate of new cases of pancreas, kidney, thyroid, liver, melanoma, and myeloma cancers have all increased in men from 2000 to 2009. For women, rates of new cases of thyroid, melanoma, kidney, pancreas, liver, leukemia, and uterus cancers increased during the same period. The report points out that excess weight and lack of physical activity are risk factors for many of these cancers.

“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer,” said John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society. “The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections. We must face these hurdles head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control cancer.”

A special section of the report highlighted trends related to human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers. From 2000 to 2009, HPV-associated oropharyngeal (throat) cancer rates increased among white men and women, while anal cancer rates among all men and women increased. Rates of vulva cancer were up among women, though cervical cancer rates declined among all women except Native Americans. The report shows that fewer than one-third of girls aged 13 to 17 had received all 3 recommended doses of the HPV vaccine. Girls in the Southern U.S., those who live in poverty, and those who are hispanic were less likely to get all three doses.

“While this report shows that we are making progress in the fight against cancer on some fronts, we still have much work to do, particularly when it comes to preventing cancer,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “For example, vaccinating against HPV can prevent cervical cancer, but, tragically, far too many girls are growing into adulthood vulnerable to cervical cancer because they are not vaccinated.”

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