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Cancer deaths drop in U.S. and Minnesota, says new report

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As of 2009, the overall death rate for cancer in the United States had declined 20 percent from its peak in 1991, translating to the avoidance of approximately 1.2 million deaths from cancer - 152,900 of these in 2009 alone. These figures come from the American Cancer Society's annual Cancer Statistics report, one of the most widely-cited medical publications in the world. The data are disseminated in Cancer Facts & Figures 2013 and its companion article, Cancer Statistics 2013, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

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Minnesota mirrors the nation with similar numbers, although cancer continues to be the leading statewide cause of death. New cancer cases were estimated to exceed 25,000 in 2010 with a projected 9,200 lives lost to the disease.

The latest report finds nationally, cancer death rates decreased from their peak of 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 173.1 per 100,000 in 2009. Death rates continue to decline for all four major cancer sites: lung, colon and rectum (colorectum), breast, and prostate. Over the past two decades, death rates have decreased from their peak by more than 30% for cancers of the colorectum, female breast, and male lung, and by more than 40% for prostate cancer. These large drops are primarily due to reductions in smoking for lung cancer and to improvements in early detection and treatment for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.

The authors say as encouraging as those drops are, further progress can be accelerated by applying existing cancer control knowledge across all segments of the population, with an emphasis on those groups in the lowest socioeconomic bracket and other underserved populations. According to the study, a total of 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States in 2013. Among men, cancers of the prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum will account for half of all newly diagnosed cancers; prostate cancer alone will account for 28% (238,590) of incident cases in men. Among women, the three most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in 2013 will be breast, lung and bronchus, and colorectum, accounting for about half of all cases. Breast cancer alone is expected to account for 29% (232,340) of all new cancer cases among women.

While incidence rates are declining for most cancer sites, they are increasing among both men and women for melanoma of the skin and cancers of the liver, thyroid, and pancreas. Overall cancer incidence rates decreased slightly in males (by 0.6% per year) and were stable in females in the most recent five year period for which there is data (2005-2009).

Of note, melanoma rates are rising in Minnesota, doubling since 1988. Melanoma is one of the few preventable cancers still increasing today and is one of the most common cancers among young people in Minnesota. "The increasing incidence of melanoma is directly related to sun exposure and is highly preventable. Men need to get serious about wearing sun block and women and teenage girls need to give up tanning beds," said Mohiba Tareen, M.D., a board certified dermatologist from Roseville. "During the summer months, I encourage parents to make sunscreen a part of their children's daily routine," said Tareen.

"We are truly are creating more birthdays," said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "But we must also recognize that not all demographic groups have benefitted equally from these gains, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal or breast cancer, where earlier detection and better treatments are credited for the improving trends. We can and must close this gap."

Cancer Facts & Figures 2013 can be viewed at www.cancer.org/statistics

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