More Americans are surviving cancer for five years or more and cancer rates overall are steadily declining, according to the latest annual report on cancer in the United States issued on Thursday.
For the first time, fewer women are being diagnosed with lung cancer, the joint report from the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries finds. Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease. This year 1.368 million Americans will learn they have cancer and 563,700 will die of it. The “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2001” finds that cancer rates dropped 0.5 percent per year from 1991 to 2001, while death rates from all cancers combined dropped 1.1 percent per year from 1993 to 2001. This is due to better prevention, screening that catches cancer early enough to treat it and better therapies. Among women, lung cancer rates have been steadily increasing as rates among men fell, because women started smoking later than men did and started quitting later, too. But the statistics show that between 1975 and 2001 the number of lung cancer cases diagnosed in women fell by 0.2 percent. “The first-ever drop in lung cancer incidence rates in women is remarkable proof that we are making a difference in the number one cancer killer, and is powerful evidence that our successful efforts must continue,” said John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. Nonetheless about 174,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year and 160,000 will die of it. The report builds on one issued by the American Cancer Society alone in January, which also showed overall cancer diagnosis and death rates dropping across the United States. The joint report compares five-year survival rates of cancer patients diagnosed between 1975 and 1979 to those diagnosed between 1995 and 2000. Ten percent gains in cancer survival rates were seen for men in cancers of the prostate, colon and kidney, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma, and leukemia. Women made 10 percent survival gains in colon, kidney, and breast cancers and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But the report found that patients with the most deadly forms such as lung, pancreatic or liver cancers were only a little more likely to survive. And almost every racial and ethnic minority was more likely than whites to die of cancer. (Source: American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer: Reuters Health News: Maggie Fox: June 2004)