December 21, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So
Although there is still much progress to be made in treating, preventing and educating about cancer, the incremental improvements are bearing fruit. This is exemplified by the national Annual Report to the Nation on the status of cancer — published online in the journal Cancer on Dec. 16 — showing that death rates from all cancers are still declining, continuing a trend that began in the early 1990s.
The report — from the American Cancer Society, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries — showed that between 2001 and 2010, overall cancer death rates dropped 1.8 percent annually for adult men, 1.4 percent annually for adult women and 2 percent for children.
Additionally, the researchers found that death rates from the four most common cancers (lung, breast, prostate and colorectal) dropped significantly during this time period, too. Combined, the decreases accounted for over two-thirds of the cancer death reduction through the decade.
Although research and better treatments have contributed to the decline in cancer deaths, Dan Raz, M.D., co-director of City of Hope's lung cancer program, said better education, earlier detection and lifestyle changes are key factors in this trend, too.
"The reasons [for cancer deaths decline] are mainly because of tobacco control for lung cancer [and] increased screening for breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer," said Raz in a KABC-TV interview.
Raz noted that the report wasn't all good news, as death rates rose for certain cancers, including liver, pancreas and uterus, during the same time period.
The researchers also found that many cancer patients have a comorbid condition (e.g., diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and kidney failure) that can complicate treatments and reduce their chance of survival. In the article, they reported that approximately 30 percent of cancer patients ages 65 of older have at least one of these conditions.
In light of these findings, the report's authors wrote that health care systems should prepare to "address the increasing need for health care in our aging population ... [with] a greater focus on risk factor prevention, coordination of care, chronic disease management and multilevel interventions."