The incidence rates of many forms of cancer decreased between 1999 and 2008, data released Wednesday show, and the mortality rates associated with several deadly cancers have declined, too. But there’s been a troubling rise in incidence rates of several cancers — those of the pancreas, esophagus and kidney — for which being overweight and a lack of physical activity are known risk factors. Melanoma and thyroid cancer incidence rates also increased during those years.
The annual report on the state of cancer trends and occurrence in the United States is compiled by the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. This year’s report shows that the overall decline in cancer deaths identified in the early 1990s has continued. In fact, death rates dropped from 1999 to 2008 for most cancers, including the four most common ones: those of the lung, colorectum, breast and prostate.
In particular, the incidence of prostate and colorectal cancers declined from 1999 to 2008, as did the incidence of lung cancer among men. Among women, lung cancer incidence dropped between 2004 and 2008, and breast cancer incidence decreased from 1999 to 2004 but then remained stable from 2004 to 2008.
The news about children’s cancers is kind of conflicted but ultimately positive: Among people 19 years old or younger, overall cancer incidence rates increased 0.6 percent per year from 2004 through 2008, a trend that the report says traces back to 1992. But cancer death rates among children decreased 1.3 percent per year during that period.
The report reflects a major shift away from targeting smoking as the main cancer culprit, noting that tobacco use has declined over the past few decades even as even as the percentage of people who are overweight or obese has increased. The report devotes pages to documenting the ill effects of being overweight and suggests that cancer-prevention efforts be aimed at reducing the incidence of being overweight and obesity (without, of course, losing sight of smoking, alcohol use and other cancer-promoting behaviors).
Here’s a summary of the report for those who don’t want to slog through the whole thing.