This year an estimated 1,596,670 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. Of those, about 571,950 -- more than 1,500 per day -- are expected to die.
That’s the bottom line in today’s report from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which every year updates cancer incidence and mortality statistics. Beyond that, the ACS’s “Cancer Facts and Figures 2011” offers a detailed view of where we as a nation stand vis a vis cancer.
It is of course not a particularly pretty picture. Cancer is, after all, the second-leading cause of death in this country, led only by heart disease, the ACS reports, accounting for almost one in four deaths.
Still, there are some bright spots. For instance, overall cancer death rates, which have been dropping since the early 1990s, have continued to decrease among males and females in almost all racial-ethnic groups since 1998, the report says. The ACS reckons that decreases in cancer mortality rates from 1990 to 2007 represent nearly 900,000 lives that might have been lost to cancer but weren’t.
Lung cancer death rates declined notably in women -- after having continuously increased since the 1930s. (That rate started declining in men a decade ago.) Still, lung cancer will likely account for more than a quarter of all cancer deaths among women in 2011.
Between 1990-1991 and 2007, cancer death rates for men decreased by 22.2 percent and for women by nearly 13.9 percent. Most of the reductions were the result of declining mortality rates for colorectal and breast cancer among women and lung, prostate and colorectal cancers among men.
On the other hand, the report points to disturbing data suggesting that, when it comes to cancer outcomes, we don’t play on a level field.
Using education as a marker for socioeconomic status, the American Cancer Society notes that cancer death rates for those with the least education are more than double those of the most educated. Eliminating that disparity (in part by “applying existing cancer control knowledge across all segments of the population with an emphasis on those groups in the lowest socioeconomic bracket”), the report says, might have prevented 37 percent of the premature cancer deaths that occurred in 2007 among people ages 25 to 64 years. That number reflects more than 60,000 lives.