From the Journals

U.S. cancer deaths continue to fall, especially lung cancer



In the United States, the risk of death from cancer overall has been continuously dropping since 1991, the American Cancer Society (ACS) noted in its latest report.

There has been an overall decline of 32% in cancer deaths as of 2019, or approximately 3.5 million cancer deaths averted, the report noted.

“This success is largely because of reductions in smoking that resulted in downstream declines in lung and other smoking-related cancers,” lead author Rebecca L. Siegel of the ACS, and colleagues, noted in the latest edition of the society’s annual report on cancer rates and trends.

The paper was published online Jan. 12 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

In particular, there has been a fall in both the incidence of and mortality from lung cancer, largely due to successful efforts to get people to quit smoking, but also from earlier diagnosis at a stage when the disease is far more amenable to treatment, noted the authors.

For example, the incidence of lung cancer declined by almost 3% per year in men between the years 2009 and 2018 and by 1% a year in women. Currently, the historically large gender gap in lung cancer incidence is disappearing such that in 2018, lung cancer rates were 24% higher in men than they were in women, and rates in women were actually higher in some younger age groups than they were in men.

Moreover, 28% of lung cancers detected in 2018 were found at a localized stage of disease compared with 17% in 2004.

Patients diagnosed with lung cancer are also living longer, with almost one-third of lung cancer patients still alive 3 years after their diagnosis compared with 21% a decade ago.

However, lung cancer is still the biggest contributor to cancer-related mortality overall, at a death toll of 350 per day – more than breast, prostate, and pancreatic cancer combined, the authors wrote.

This is 2.5 times higher than the death rate from colorectal cancer (CRC), the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, they added.

Nevertheless, the decrease in lung cancer mortality accelerated from 3.1% per year between 2010 and 2014 to 5.4% per year during 2015 to 2019 in men and from 1.8% to 4.3% in women. “Overall, the lung cancer death rate has dropped by 56% from 1990 to 2019 in men and by 32% from 2002 to 2019 in women,” Ms. Siegel and colleagues emphasized.

Overall, the ACS projects there will be over 1.9 million new cancer cases and over 600,000 cancer deaths across the United States in 2022.

Patterns are changing

With prostate cancer now accounting for some 27% of all cancer diagnoses in men, recent trends in the incidence of prostate cancer are somewhat worrisome, the authors wrote. While the incidence for local-stage disease remained stable from 2014 through to 2018, the incidence of advanced-stage disease has increased by 6% a year since 2011. “Consequently, the proportion of distant-stage diagnoses has more than doubled,” the authors noted, “from a low of 3.9% in 2007 to 8.2% in 2018.”


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