Cancer's decline continues 28,000 fewer deaths; reduced smoking cited
This year, about 55,000 fewer people will get cancer and 28,000 fewer people will die of it than in 1999, the USA's leading cancer groups said Sunday.
Those numbers are the latest in a decade-long decline that was first noted two years ago and appears to be holding steady.
''This is a real trend,'' says James Marks, director of the National Center for Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. ''We've reached a turning point in the war against cancer.''
Officials attribute the drop to reduced smoking and progress in prevention, early detection and treatment. Lung cancer remains a leading killer, accounting for an estimated 158,900 deaths last year, or 28% of all cancer deaths.
About 1.2 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and 560,000 will die of the disease, according to the new report by the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.
After increasing by 1.2% a year from 1973 to 1990, the rates of new cancer cases fell on average 0.8% a year between 1990 and 1997. And deaths fell 0.6% a year from 1991 through 1995, when the decrease accelerated to 1.7% a year, the report shows.
The decline was noted in the nation's first cancer report card in 1998; the new evidence suggests it may last for some time.
''We are making progress and it's accelerating,'' says Harmon Eyre, of the American Cancer Society.
Eyre says doctors have used improved screening for colon and rectum cancer, the third most common type, as an opportunity to save 28,000 to 35,000 more lives each year.
''Screening detects precancerous polyps. If you remove them, you can prevent colon cancer. If screening detects cancer very early, the cure rate is over 95%,'' he says.
Just one of five people age 50 and older had a stool test for colon cancer, while a third of men and a quarter of women were examined by sigmoidoscopy or proctoscopy.
Among other findings:
* Cancers among men, who have the highest cancer rates, declined most.
* Lung, prostate, breast and colon and rectal cancers account for more than half of all new cancers and were also leading causes of death.
* New cases of breast cancer remained steady, but deaths declined 2% a year since 1990.