U.S. Cancer Death Rate Continues to Fall

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter
Monday, October 15, 2007; 12:00 AM

MONDAY, Oct. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Death rates from cancer are dropping more quickly across the United States, offering what an expert called a "glimmer of hope" against a leading killer.

According to a new report, cancer death rates fell by 2.1 percent each year from 2002 through 2004 -- almost double the 1.1 percent annual decline recorded between 1993 and 2003.

"That's a very encouraging finding. It's the key indicator of progress in cancer," said Dr. David Espey, a cancer epidemiologist from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta who was assigned to the Indian Health Service Division of Epidemiology and Disease Control, in Albuquerque, N.M.

Espey is lead author of theAnnual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2004, Featuring Cancer in American Indians and Alaska Natives. appearing in the Nov. 15 issue of the journalCancer.

The acceleration in decline of cancer deaths is "a good news story," added Dr. Corey J. Langer, director of thoracic and head and neck medical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. "It's the first glimmer of hope in a long time," he said.

The report, which appears annually, is a joint effort from the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

Data on new cancer diagnoses came from state and regional population-based cancer registries, while data on cancer deaths came from the CDC's National Vital Statistics System.

Most of the top 15 cancers in both men and women experienced declines in death rates. Notably, men saw declines in death rates for lung, prostate and colorectal cancers, while women saw declines in colorectal and breast cancer. In addition, the increase in death rates from lung cancer among women slowed considerably.

Overall, incidence rates for all cancers decreased slightly from 1992 through 2004, after increasing between 1975 and 1992.

There were declines in the incidence of lung cancer in men, colorectal cancer in both men and women and breast cancer in women from 2001 through 2004. The breast cancer declines could be due to declines in the use of hormone replacement therapy, experts said.

Lung cancer incidence in women stabilized from 1998 through 2004, after a long period of increases. In men, the lung cancer rate declined 1.8 percent annually from 1991 through 2004. Rates of colorectal cancer fell by more than 2 percent per year for both men and women, probably because of better screening and removal of precancerous polyps.

"This is the first time we have seen good news in lung cancer," Langer said. "It's probably mostly a reflection of the drop in smoking rates."


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