The risk of dying from cancer in the United States has dropped by nearly a third in three decades, thanks to earlier diagnosis, better treatment and less smoking, an analysis said Wednesday.
The American Cancer Society said in its annual report that cancer death rates for men and women fell 32% from their peak in 1991 to 2019.
This decline represents about 3.5 million total deaths.
“This success is largely due to fewer people smoking, resulting in a decline in lung and other smoking-related cancers,” the report said. Lung cancer causes more deaths than any other type.
And the rate of decline is accelerating, data shows. In the 1990s, the risk dropped 1% annually. Between 2015 and 2019, the rate decreased twice as fast, at about 2% per year.
“The rapid decline in cancer mortality reflects our overall ability to move closer to prevention, screening, early diagnosis, treatment and a world without cancer,” the Cancer Society report said.
“In recent years, more people with lung cancer are being diagnosed when the cancer is at an early stage and as a result live longer.”
In 2004, only 21% of people diagnosed with lung cancer were still alive three years later. In 2018, that number rose to 31%.
Improvements in treatment and early detection are also helping to reduce mortality, but disparity in cancer outcomes remains.
The Cancer Society reports that cancer survival rates are lower for black people than white people in almost every type of cancer. Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than white women, even though they are 4% less likely to get it.
And American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest incidence of liver cancer of any major racial/ethnic group in the United States—more than twice the risk among white people.
The Cancer Society attributes the difference to “disparities in wealth, education and living standards” stemming from “historical and persistent structural racism and discriminatory practices”.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic “greatly reduced” people’s ability to access cancer services, including prevention, detection and treatment, the organization said.
“These delays in care will likely worsen cancer inequalities, as the unequal burden falls on communities of color,” warns the report. ,
Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States behind heart disease.
In 2022, the Cancer Society expects 1.9 million new cancer cases and approximately 610,000 deaths, or about 1,670 deaths a day.
According to the organization, an estimated 42% of cancer cases are “potentially avoidable,” as they can be caused by smoking, excess body weight, drinking alcohol, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.
President Joe Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer in 2015, wanted to prioritize the fight against the disease in his presidency, but has so far largely eclipsed efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. has gone.