Source: AARP

Cancers of the mouth and throat related to oral sex, as well as thyroid, liver and skin cancers are on the rise among older adults, according to  new stats released last week from the American Cancer Society.

There was some good news, however. The death rate is down for the well-known major cancers. The society’s Cancer Statistics 2012 report found that overall, cancer deaths dropped by nearly two percent for both men and women  from 2004 to 2008.

That may sound paltry, but Len Lichtenfeld, M.D., the society’s deputy chief medical officer, says it is more significant than it seems: Many people avoided even hearing the words “you have cancer” because advances in cancer treatment caught problems early, while still in the pre-cancerous stage, he said.

The report found that death rates were down for all four major cancers — lung, colorectal, breast and prostate. The biggest drop was for lung cancer, which is down almost 40 percent in the number of men dying from the disease, thanks to fewer Americans smoking.

Deaths among women from breast cancer declined 34 percent, mainly because of increases in mammogram screening and a decrease in hormone use for menopause, the ACS report said.

On the other hand, some cancers are increasing, particularly among older Americans.

According to Medscape News , the ACS found that people 55 to 64 years of age had the highest increase in incidence rates for liver and HPV-related oral cancers; people 65 and older also had an increase in incidence rates for melanoma, or skin cancer.

For men with HPV-related oral cancer and women with thyroid cancer, rising incidence rates were highest among people 55 to 64 years of age.

The following cancers are expected to total about 245,000 new cases of the more than 1.6 million total cancer cases projected for 2012, according to the ACS.

Among those cancers on the rise, as reported by the Wall Street Journal :

Melanoma: More men over 55 and women of all ages are getting the deadliest form of skin cancer. This may be because of increased use of tanning booths, as well as increased awareness and detection of skin cancer. The good news is that two new drugs were approved last year to treat metastatic melanoma.

Thyroid: Rates increased from 1999 to 2008, possibly thanks to better detection of smaller tumors, with highest rate among older women.

HPV-related cancers of the back of the tongue, throat and tonsil area (oropharynx cancers): These cancers, caused by the sexually transmitted Human Papillomavirus (HPV), are increasing in part because of the increased practice of oral sex. On the good news side: Oral cancers from tobacco and alcohol use, and not from HPV, have been steadily declining.

Esophageal, pancreatic, liver and kidney: These are on the rise and obesity may play a role, according to the cancer society. Obesity is associated with a substantially increased risk for esophageal cancer due to acid reflux disease. As for liver cancers, half of the cases are among people with chronic hepatitis C.

This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

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