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US Cancer Death Rate Drops 25 Percent Since 1991: What Contributed To The Decline?

Update Date: Jan 07, 2017 09:00 AM EST

In the year to come, an estimated 600,920 people will die from cancer. Though it sounds grim, the death rate in the United States dropped by 25 percent since 1991.

The drop equates to 2.1 million fewer cancer deaths between 1991 and 2014, the American Cancer Society said in its Cancer Statistics 2017, an annual report on cancer incidence, mortality and survival.

Published in the A Cancer Journal For Clinicians, the decline was due to a steady decrease in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment of tumors. In fact, breast cancer mortality rate for women decreased by 38 percent between 1989 and 2014.

Lung cancer deaths among men dropped by 43 percent in men between 1990 and 2014, and 17 percent in women between 2002 and 2014. Prostate cancer also decreased by a staggering 51 percent from 1993 to 2014.

"The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer's deadly toll," Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a press release.

"Continuing that success will require more clinical and basic research to improve early detection and treatment, as well as creative new strategies to increase healthy behaviors nationwide. Finally, we need to consistently apply existing knowledge in cancer control across all segments of the population, particularly to disadvantaged groups," he added.

Gender Disparities

New cancer diagnoses for American men have steadily dropped in the last decade at about 2 percent per year while rates for women have remained static. The decline in cancer rates in men could be attributed to adjustments in prostate cancer screenings. For both men and women, cancer deaths declined by about 1.5 percent.

Yahoo reports that in all forms, the frequency of cancer is 20 percent greater among men and the mortality rate is 40 percent higher. The disparity is due to the risk factors affecting each sex.

For instance, liver cancer, a very serious and fatal form of cancer, is three times more common in men than women. This is mainly due to the higher rate of Hepatitis C infection among men and because men tend to consume more cigarettes and tobacco.

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