- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cancer death rates in the United States have dropped between 10 percent and 20 percent since the early 1990s, partly because of better screening, prevention and treatments, an American Cancer Society report says.

The rates have decreased 18.4 percent in men and 10.5 percent in women. That translates to an estimated half-million cancer deaths that were avoided between the early 1990s and 2004.

Still, cancer remains a major killer. The annual statistics report produced by the American Cancer Society (ACS) said cancer accounts for more deaths than heart disease in people younger than 85. An estimated 1.4 million cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year and about 565,650 people will die from the disease, the report said.

The rates account for the number of deaths from cancer per 100,000 of the population.

The number of Americans who die from cancer each year has increased because of the growth and aging of the population, said Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, ACS strategic director for cancer surveillance.

The number of cancer deaths in the United States declined for the first time in 2003 and 2004, he said, but increased from 2004 to 2005.

In order for the number of cancer deaths to decline, the reduction in the cancer mortality rate must be large enough to offset the growth and aging of the population.

These challenges shouldn’t overshadow the positive report, ACS officials said.

“The increase in the number of cancer deaths in 2005 after two years of historic declines should not obscure the fact that cancer death rates continue to drop, reflecting the enormous progress that has been made against cancer during the past 15 years,” said John R. Seffrin, ACS chief executive officer.

Dr. Jemal, who is one of the report’s authors, said smoking prevalence has decreased during the past several decades and technologies have allowed for early detection of many types of cancer.

Mortality rates have continued to decrease for the most common types of cancer: lung and bronchus, colon, rectum, and prostate for men; and lung and bronchus, colon, rectum and breast for women.

The exception is lung cancer in women. Rates continued to increase 0.2 percent per year from 1995 to 2004, the report found. The incidence of lung cancer diagnosis is declining in men but holding steady in women.

Researchers say cigarette smoking among men peaked decades ago and then started to decrease about 20 years earlier than among women.

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