Annual Report to the Nation Part 1: Rapid Decline in Lung Cancer and Melanoma Deaths Leads to Continued Global Decline in Cancer Death Rate


Overall cancer death rates continue to decline among men and women for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the Nation’s latest annual report on cancer status. From 2001 to 2018, the decline in lung cancer death rates accelerated and melanoma death rates have declined significantly in recent years, reflecting a substantial increase in survival for metastatic melanoma. However, the report finds that for several other major cancers, including prostate, colorectal and female breast cancers, previous downward trends in death rates have slowed or disappeared.

The report, which appeared in JNCI: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, also finds that overall cancer incidence rates continue to rise in women, children, adolescents and young adults (AYA). All of the trends in this report cover the period leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual report is a collaborative effort between the American Cancer Society (ACS); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).

The report shows a decrease in mortality rates for 11 of the 19 most common cancers in men and for 14 of the 20 most common cancers in women, during the most recent period (2014-2018). Although the downward trends in death rates accelerated for lung cancer and melanoma during this period, previous downward trends in death rates from colorectal cancer and female breast cancer have slowed down. and those of prostate cancer have stabilized. Death rates have increased for a few cancers such as the brain and other cancers of the nervous system and pancreas in both sexes, the oral cavity and pharynx in men, and the liver and uterus in women.

“The decline in lung cancer and melanoma death rates is the result of progress across the cancer continuum – from reducing smoking rates to preventing cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors, ”said Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, Ph .D., CEO, American Cancer Society. “As we celebrate progress, we must remain engaged in research, patient support and advocacy to make even more progress and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families. ”

An analysis of long-term trends in cancer death rates in this year’s report also shows that the decline in death rates accelerated among men and women from 2001 to 2018. Among men, a decline of 1.8% per year in 2001-2015 accelerated to become a decline. by 2.3% per year over the period 2015-2018. Among women, a decline of 1.4% per year from 2001 to 2015 accelerated to reach a decline of 2.1% per year during the period 2015-2018. The report found that overall cancer death rates declined across all racial and ethnic groups during the period 2014-2018.

“It is encouraging to see a continued decline in death rates for many common cancers,” said Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “To eliminate existing health disparities and give everyone the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, we must continue to find innovative ways to reach people across the continuum of cancer care – from screening and early detection to treating and supporting survivors. “

However, increases in cancer incidence and death rates or deceleration of previous downward trends for some other cancers such as colorectal and breast cancers in women are likely due to risk factors such as ‘obesity.

“The continued decline in cancer death rates should be gratifying for the cancer research community, as it proves that scientific advancements over several decades are making a real difference in population-level outcomes,” Norman said E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. “I think we could get even more improvements if we tackle obesity, which has the potential to overtake smoking to become the main modifiable factor associated with cancer. ”

The authors report that cancer death rates continued to decline in children (under 15) and AYA (aged 15 to 39) despite an increase in incidence rates from 2001 to 2017. Overall childhood cancer incidence rates and AYAs have increased in all races. / ethnic except for Native American / Alaska Native children where rates have remained stable. The most common cancer in AYA was female breast cancer.

“When assessing health disparities, it is essential to recognize the social factors that influence the health of communities and access to health care,” said Betsy A. Kohler, MPH, Executive Director of the NAACCR. “Social and economic indicators, especially based on assessments of small areas, are increasingly important in understanding the burden of cancer. “

Other key findings include:

  • Overall, cancer incidence rates were higher in males than females in all racial and ethnic groups except the Asian / Pacific island population, where the rates were similar .
  • Overall, cancer incidence rates were slightly lower in blacks than in whites.
  • In contrast, overall cancer death rates were higher among blacks than among whites.
  • Liver cancer incidence rates were previously on the rise, but data shows rates have leveled off in both men and women.
  • The two-year relative survival for advanced melanoma cases diagnosed between 2001 and 2009 was stable, but increased 3.1% per year for those diagnosed between 2009 and 2014.
  • Two-year relative survival increased only slightly for early and middle-stage melanoma cases diagnosed between 2001 and 2014 (0.03% and 0.4% per year, respectively).

The authors indicate that these findings may help inform health care providers about the need to increase efforts related to cancer prevention, early detection and treatment, and the need for equitable implementation of cancer. ‘effective interventions, especially among underfunded populations.

To learn more about the report, see:

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