December 31, 2014 | by Nicole White
The American Cancer Society’s annual statistics show the death rate from cancer in the U.S. is down significantly from its peak more than a decade ago – certainly a reason to celebrate. But before the kudos give way to complacency, be forewarned: A number of increasingly serious public health issues could send cancer deaths and cancer incidence climbing again.
That's the sobering perspective provided by City of Hope's provost and chief scientific officer, Steven T. Rosen, M.D.
He added some context to the annual statistical analysis from the American Cancer Society. That analysis found that the death rate from cancer has dropped 22 percent from its peak in 1991; amounting to about 1.5 million deaths from cancer avoided. Between 2007 and 2011 – the most recent five years with data available – new cancer cases dropped by 1.8 percent per year in men and stayed the same in women. Cancer deaths decreased 1.8 percent per year in men and 1.4 percent in women for that same period of time.
Rosen attributed the overall decline in deaths to a number of factors, namely prevention, early detection and better therapies.
In terms of prevention, declining tobacco use has led to drops in lung cancer, appropriate use of hormonal therapy has been a powerful tool against breast cancer, and colonoscopies and polyp removal have reduced colon cancer deaths. As for early detection, routine prostate cancer screenings have stood out for their ability to reduce deaths from that disease.
At the same time, cancer treatment has advanced, Rosen said, especially in the use of adjuvant therapy for breast cancer and prostate cancer, and in the use of targeted therapies for solid tumors and stem cell transplants for blood cancers.
But, Rosen warned, such progress could be threatened, even reversed.
“We have to be vigilant for it is anticipated that the obesity epidemic will increase cancer incidence and deaths,” Rosen said. “Recreational marijuana use can increase lung cancer, and the rise of sexually transmitted diseases is associated with cancer risk. In addition, cancer is associated with aging, and as life expectancy fortunately increases, cancer rates will rise proportionately.”
Other highlights from the report, released in a statement from the American Cancer Society, include:
The full reports will be online Jan. 5. Cancer Statistics 2015 can be viewed at cancer.org/statistics.
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