Deaths from colon cancer, once the leading cancer killer in the United States, declined 3 percent a year from 2001 to 2010 as more people had colonoscopies and treatments improved, the American Cancer Society reported Monday.

The organization's study, reported in the journal "CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians," showed that the drop in the mortality rate accelerated from 2 percent annually the previous decade.


(American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network)

Similarly, the review of government health data showed a 30 percent decline over the decade in the incidence of colorectal cancer among people ages 50 and older, and an even larger drop among people 65 and older. But the rate actually rose 1.1 percent per year for people younger than 50.

Colorectal cancer remains the third-leading cancer killer and third most common cancer, according to the research. In 2014, an estimated 71,830 men and 65,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease, and 50,310 deaths are expected. More than a third of those who die (29 percent of men and 43 percent of women) will be people 80 years old or more.

Black people continue to suffer a vastly disproportionate death rate from the disease, the review shows. For African Americans, the rate was 29.4 per 100,000 population, about 50 percent higher than the rate for whites (19.2) and more than double the rate for Asian-Pacific Islanders (13.1), the researchers reported.

The release of the data coincided with a meeting in Washington, D.C., of dozens of organizations determined to increase the screening rate for colorectal cancer to 80 percent of the population by the 2018. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must provide colonoscopies and other screenings for colorectal cancer free to patients.