Cancer death rates are declining among men and women across all racial and ethnic groups, with notable declines in lung cancer and deaths from metastatic melanoma recorded from 2001 to 2018, according to the most recent annual report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.1 That said, several other tumor types that previously experienced declining death rates, including prostate, colorectal (CRC), and female breast cancers, have either experienced a slowdown or stopped the decline completely.
Of some of the more favorable trends, the lung cancer death rate per year was found to have fallen mainly for men, at 2.0% per year from 2001 to 2005, 2.9% from 2005 to 2012, 4.0% from 2012 to 2015. and 5.7% from 2015 to 2018.2 Kidney cancer death rates have also been declining in both sexes since 2001, although in 2015 it started to decline more rapidly for men. After a period of stable trends, the melanoma death rate began to decline markedly in 2013 for male patients (5.7% per year) and in 2012 for female patients (4.4% per year). In addition, bladder cancer deaths began to decline in 2013 for men (1.3% per year) with a steady decline for women from 2001 to 2018 (0.6% per year). Liver cancer deaths stabilized for men and slowed for women from 2013 to 2018.
“The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of advances across the cancer continuum — from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a press release. “As we celebrate progress, we must remain committed to research, patient support and advocacy to make even more progress to improve patients’ lives. [with cancer] and their families.”
In contrast, while the breast cancer death rate in women decreased by an average of 2.3% per year between 2003 and 2007, it decreased by 1.6% per year for 2007 to 2014 and 1.0% for 2014 to 2018. Similarly, it decreased. prostate cancer death rate at 3.5% per year on average from 2001 to 2013 and stabilized from 2013 to 2018.
The report, which covers a period before the COVID-19 pandemic, also found that the overall incidence of cancer in women, children and adolescents and young adults had decreased. Overall, the report found a decline in death rates for 11 of the 19 most common cancers for men and 14 of the 20 most common cancers for women over the 2014-2018 period.
Long-term trends in cancer death rates in the annual report indicated that the decline in death rates accelerated for both male and female patients from 2001 to 2018. Male patients showed a decline of 1.8% per year from 2001 to 2015, which rose to 2.3% per year from 2015 to 2018. In addition, female patients experienced a decline of 1.4% per year from 2001 to 2015, which increased to 2.1% per year from 2015 to 2018.
Cancer death rates were highest among black populations (182.5 per 100,000), followed by American Indian/Alaska Native (163.2 per 100,000), Whites (160.2 per 100,000), Hispanic (110.8 per 100,000) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (98.0 per 100,000). While prostate cancer deaths were stable among white, black, and Hispanic men, the rate declined for Asian/Pacific Islanders and American Indian/Alaska Natives. In addition, CRC death rates declined among all racial and ethnic groups, with the exception of American Indians/Alaska Natives who experienced stable rates. In pancreatic cancer — the fourth most common cancer-related death among white and black men — death rates increased for white men but were stable for all other groups.
Lung cancer, breast cancer and CRC mortality rates decreased for all female patients across all racial and ethnic groups from 2014 to 2018, except for stable rates observed in breast cancer deaths among Asian/Pacific Islanders and American Indian/Alaska Natives and CRC cancer deaths among American Indians/Alaska Natives. Although pancreatic cancer death rates for women increased slightly, there was no statistically significant increase in any racial or ethnic group. Uterine cancer was responsible for the largest increase in the death rate for women during the period from 2014 to 2018, with increased rates seen in white, black, Asian/Pacific islanders and Hispanic women.
“It’s encouraging to see continued declines in the death rate for many of the common cancers,” said Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health. Promotion, in a press release. “To eliminate existing health inequalities and give everyone the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, we must continue to find innovative ways to reach people across the cancer care continuum – from screening and early detection to treatment and support for survivors.”
Despite an increase in incidence over the period 2001-2017, cancer deaths among children under 15 years of age and adolescents and young adults between 15 and 39 years of age continue to fall. Overall cancer incidence increased in children and young adults and adolescents across all racial and ethnic groups, with the exception of American Indians/Alaska Natives whose rates remained stable. In adolescents and young adults, female breast cancer was the most common type of tumor.
“When evaluating health inequalities, it is critical to recognize the social factors that influence community health and access to health care,” concluded Betsy A. Kohler, MPH, executive director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. . “Social and economic indicators, particularly based on assessments of small areas, are becoming increasingly important in understanding the burden of cancer.”
Annual Report to the Nation: Rapid Decline in Lung Cancer and Melanoma Deaths. news item. American Cancer Society. July 8, 2021. Accessed July 9, 2021. https://bit.ly/36tF4KxIslami F, Ward EM, Sung H, et al. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, Part 1: National Cancer Statistics. J Natl Cancer Inst. Published online July 8, 2021. doi:10.1093/jnci/djab131.