American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
February 2012 Clinical Laboratory News: Cancer Death Rates Continue to Drop

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February 2012: Volume 38, Number 2


Cancer Death Rates Continue to Drop

A new report released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that since 1999 cancer death rates in the U.S. have continued to decline in both men and women, as well as among all racial and ethnic groups, with the exception of American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

From 1990 through 2008, the most recent year for which data are available, overall cancer death rates decreased by about 23% in men and 15% in women. That means that more than 1 million deaths from cancer were avoided.

The organization’s latest data paint a positive picture, revealing that death rates continue to decline for lung, colon, breast and prostate cancer, which are responsible for the most cancer deaths. Over the past decade, however, the figures show a slight increase in people developing some less common cancers, including pancreas, liver, thyroid, and kidney cancers. The report sites the increasing prevalence of obesity as a possible reason for the spike. In addition, oropharyngeal cancers, which are linked to human papillomavirus infection, are on the rise.

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Lung cancer is responsible for the largest drop in death rates for men, down 40%, while breast cancer deaths have declined by 34% for women.

African American and Latino men saw the most dramatic drop in death rates, with respective declines of 2.4% and 2.3% annually. However, African American men still have a 15% higher cancer incidence and 33% higher death rate compared with Caucasian men. African American women have a 6% lower cancer incidence rate compared with Caucasian women but have a 16% higher death rate.

Even with this good news, ACS predicts a total of 1,638,910 new cancer cases and 577,190 deaths from cancer will occur in the U.S. this year.

The full report is available from CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians doi:10.3322/caac.20138.