Cancer is terrible. Almost everyone in the United States has experienced the disease firsthand or at least knows someone who’s had to fight against it for their life.
But that fight might be getting better and the hard work of oncologists and cancer researchers is paying off.
The American Cancer Society recently released incredible news about cancer deaths. A major study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians says that cancer deaths have declined an estimated 33 percent over the past few decades, resulting in about 3.8 million fewer deaths.
“After peaking in 1991, the mortality rate from cancer has continued to fall over the last 30 years due to a decrease in smoking and improved cancer detection and treatment,” according to The Hill.
“This trend continued in 2020 — the most recent year for which data is available — with another 1.5 percent decrease in mortality rates compared to 2019.
Two times more deaths were averted among men than among women —about 2.6 million compared to about 1.2 million — which the study attributed to a higher peak and faster decline in the death rate among men. Men still have a higher mortality rate from cancer than woman, despite this rapid decrease.
A drop in mortality rates from lung cancer has been a particular driver of this trend, the study noted. However, lung cancer remains among the most deadly forms of cancer, holding the highest death rate for both men and women.”
“According to the report, the steady decline in the U.S. cancer mortality rate is attributed to reductions in smoking, an uptake in screening for breast, colorectal and prostate cancers, and improvements in treatments such as adjuvant chemotherapies for colon and breast cancers,” one outlet explained.
“Adjuvant therapy is often used after primary treatments, such as surgery, to lessen the chance of cancer coming back, according to Mayo Clinic.
The report also notes advances in the development of targeted treatment and immunotherapy have accelerated progress in lung cancer mortality.”
CNN noted, “In their report, researchers from the American Cancer Society also pointed to HPV vaccinations as connected to reductions in cancer deaths. HPV, or human papillomavirus, infections can cause cervical cancer and other cancer types, and vaccination has been linked with a decrease in new cervical cancer cases.
Among women in their early 20s, there was a 65% drop in cervical cancer rates from 2012 through 2019, “which totally follows the time when HPV vaccines were put into use,” said Dr. William Dahut, the society’s chief scientific officer.
“There are other cancers that are HPV-related – whether that’s head and neck cancers or anal cancers – so there’s optimism this will have importance beyond this,” he said.
The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with any invasive cancer is estimated to be 40.9% for men and 39.1% for women in the United States, according to the new report.”
I feel like a massively underrated story of public health progress is the decline of stomach cancer.
In 1930s, it led all cancers in death rate. In the last 100 years—with declines in smoking, improvements in food and water quality to eliminate bacteria—it's fallen almost 90%. pic.twitter.com/zSuo942wkU
— Derek Thompson (@DKThomp) January 12, 2023
Though this is great news, there’s still a lot of work to be done. U.S. News said, “Unfortunately, rates of advanced prostate cancers are on the rise, likely driven by confusion and conflict over screening guidelines…The second-leading cause of cancer death for U.S. men, prostate cancer rose 3% a year from 2014 through 2019 after two decades of decline, the report found.”
“There’s also been a 5% year-over-year increase in diagnosis of men with advanced prostate cancer, “so we are not catching these cancers early, when we have an opportunity to cure men,” Chief executive officer Karen Knudsen of the ACS told the magazine.
In 2020, cancer placed second as the leading cause of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and followed by COVID-19.