Cancer Deaths in US Reach a Milestone

Rate has been declining for 25 years now
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 8, 2019 1:57 PM CST
Cancer Deaths in US Reach a Milestone
Chemotherapy drugs are administered to a patient at a hospital in Chapel Hill, N.C.   (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The US cancer death rate has hit a milestone: It's been falling for at least 25 years, according to a new report. Lower smoking rates are translating into fewer deaths, and advances in early detection and treatment also are helping, per the AP. But it's not all good news. Obesity-related cancer deaths are rising, and prostate cancer deaths are no longer dropping, said Rebecca Siegel, lead author of the American Cancer Society report published Tuesday. Cancer also remains the nation's No. 2 killer. The society predicts there will be more than 1.7 million new cancer cases, and more than 600,000 cancer deaths, in the US this year. The nation's cancer death rate was increasing until the early 1990s. It has been dropping since, falling 27% between 1991 and 2016, the Cancer Society reported.

Lung cancer is the main reason for the decline. Among cancers, it has long killed the most people, especially men. But the lung cancer death rate dropped by nearly 50% among men since 1991, a delayed effect from a decline in smoking that began in the 1960s, Siegel said. Of the most common types of cancer in the US, all the ones with increasing death rates are linked to obesity, including cancers of the thyroid, pancreas, and uterus. Another is liver cancer. Liver cancer deaths have been increasing since the 1970s, and initially most of the increase was tied to hepatitis C infections spread among people who abuse drugs. But now obesity accounts for a third of liver cancer deaths, and is more of a factor than hepatitis, Siegel said. The prostate cancer death rate fell by half over two decades, though the rate flattened from 2013 to 2016. (More drugs recalled due to cancer risk.)

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