U.S. Cancer Cases, Deaths Continue to Drop

Report says lifestyle changes, better screening and treatment explain decrease

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Where cancers have increased, Edwards noted that in most cases there are no effective screening tests to catch the cancer early. In addition, for many of these cancers, the causes aren't known and there aren't effective treatments, she said.

Cancer death rates remain highest among blacks and lowest among Asian/Pacific Islanders. Although death rates by race/ethnicity were similar for most cancers, deaths from pancreatic cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the United States, increased in white men and women but dropped among black men and women.

Among men, except for Asian/Pacific Islanders, the three leading causes of cancer death were lung, prostate and colorectal cancer. Among Asian/Pacific Islanders, lung, liver and colorectal cancers were the top three causes of cancer death.

For women, except Hispanic women, the three leading causes of cancer death were lung, breast and colorectal cancer. For Hispanic women, breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths, the study authors noted.

These differences in death rates may be due to differences in risk behaviors, socioeconomic status and access to and use of screening and treatment, according to the report.

While these trends are expected to continue, they could be accelerated if more people would make the lifestyle changes needed to reduce their risk of cancer. These include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthful diet and exercising.

In addition, lives could be saved if more people were screened for cancers such as breast and colon cancer, and if there was more access to newer treatments, the report said.

Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "there is enormous detail in this comprehensive report, but the take-away message is as clear as it is compelling: the incidence and death toll from cancer are both steadily, if gradually, declining."

That is not a new message, Katz noted.

"The gratifying conclusion is that we are effectively fighting cancer at every level: preventing it outright by modifying cancer risk factors; finding it early through effective screening; and treating it ever more effectively. The benefits of screening suggested here are timely in light of recent debate about the net benefits of mammography," he said. "The overall news here is clearly good, and is something of a rebuke for those who fear modern science rather than embracing the benefits it so often confers."

More information

For more information on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

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