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Cancer Deaths on the Decline
Cancer death rates have been steadily declining for more than a decade, according to statistics from the American Cancer Society’s annual report. In addition, the data show that the number of people developing cancer also has declined.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer death rates fell 19.2 percent among men from 1990 to 2005, and 11.4 percent among women from 1991 to 2004. That means that, over that 15-year period, 650,000 fewer people died of cancer.
Experts are hopeful that the trend will continue, especially since the number of people developing cancer also is declining steadily. Each year from 2001 to 2005, 1.8 percent fewer men were diagnosed with cancer. From 1998 to 2005, 0.6 percent fewer women a year were found to have the disease. And among all people whose cancer was diagnosed between 1996 and 2004, the five-year survival rate was 66 percent – up significantly from 50 percent in 1975-1977.
The vast majority of the improvement in outcomes for men came from an almost 80 percent decrease in deaths from lung, prostate and colorectal cancer; among women, decreases in colorectal and breast cancer deaths accounted for 60 percent of the decline.
According to the American Cancer Society report, this represents the impact of declining smoking rates overall, as well as the success of early detection efforts such as colonoscopies and mammograms. Treatment of these and other cancers also has improved, also adding to reductions in death rates.
However, the battle against cancer is far from won. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2009, there will be about 1.5 million new cases diagnosed, and about 560,000 people will die of the disease.
In men, about half of these new diagnoses will be cases of prostate, lung and colorectal cancer, while in women, about half will be breast, lung and colorectal cancer. These four types of cancer – lung, colorectal, breast and prostate – account for almost half of all deaths from the disease.
To help protect yourself and your loved ones, follow the American Cancer Society guidelines for prevention and detection:
Colorectal cancer. Screening, such as a colonoscopy or other test, should begin at age 50 for people with an average risk for the cancer. There are several tests, so talk with your doctor about your options. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you should inform your doctor and discuss starting the screening at an earlier age.
Breast cancer. Get a yearly mammogram starting at age 40 – earlier if you have a family or personal history of cancer. In addition, get regular breast exams – at least yearly for women over 40 – from your doctor. And all women should perform monthly self-exams. If you are at a high risk for breast cancer, talk with your doctor about other steps you should take.
Prostate cancer. Although the American Cancer Society does not recommend routine screening for prostate cancer, it does recommend that you talk to your doctor about your history and the options for screening.
Lung cancer. The best way to prevent lung cancer is to avoid smoking. If you smoke, you should quit. If you are exposed to second-hand smoke, you should try to avoid that exposure. Talk to your doctor about your tobacco exposure, and discuss options for screening if necessary.