- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2007

U.S. cancer deaths are down for the second year in a row, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).

There were 3,014 fewer cancer deaths in 2004 than the previous year, an even larger decrease than the 369 fewer deaths reported in 2003 than in 2002.

“The second consecutive drop in the number of actual cancer deaths, much steeper than the first, shows last year’s historic drop was no fluke,” said ACS Chief Executive Officer John Seffrin yesterday, when the statistics were released.

He credited trends in prevention, earlier diagnoses and more effective treatment for the “dramatic, lifesaving dividends.”

Never before in the more than 70 years since researchers began tracking national cancer statistics has the number of deaths declined for two years in a row.

Indeed, the five-year survival rate for all cancers diagnosed from 1996 to 2002 is 66 percent — up from 51 percent when compared with diagnoses made from 1975 to 1977. The most significant decline was found in colon and rectal cancer, which the ACS attributed to increased screening and early detection.

Lung cancer remains the top cancer killer among both men and women. Lung cancer has declined in men and has only risen by less than 1 percent in women, the study found. After continuously increasing for more than two decades, breast-cancer rates have “leveled off,” according to the report. About 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in people 55 or older.

In an appearance at the National Institutes of Health yesterday, President Bush applauded the good news and noted that federal funding for cancer research was up by 25 percent

“It’s a commitment we’re keeping,” Mr. Bush said. “There are tangible results as a result of the research that takes place around the country, and a lot of it focused here at the NIH.”

He also praised the development of a vaccine for human papillomavirus, which causes 70 percent of cervical cancers, and said the vaccine will be dispensed by the government “to those who qualify.”

Cancer accounts for one-quarter of the nation’s deaths. An estimated 1,444,920 new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and about 559,650 people — or some 1,500 a day — are expected to die of cancer.

The disease has a big price tag, costing about $206 billion in combined medical costs and lost productivity because of illness or premature death, according to NIH figures.

In the District, 2,540 new cases are expected, in Maryland 26,390 cases and in Virginia 35,090. In all three states, prostate, lung and breast cancers were the most prevalent, followed by colon and rectal cancer.

Blacks continue to be more likely to develop cancer than any other racial or ethnic population. The death rate from cancer among black men is 38 percent higher than white men and among black women, it is 17 percent higher than in white women. While Hispanics generally have a lower incidence of cancer compared to whites, the incident of liver cancer is twice as high in Hispanic men and women than in the white population.

Almost one-third of all cancer deaths — 168,000 people — are caused by smoking or tobacco use, the ACS report said. Another one-third of cancer deaths are linked to obesity, poor nutrition and inactivity. Other causes include environmental factors, infections and exposure to the sun. The report attributed only 5 percent of cancers to hereditary causes.

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