U.S. cancer death rate has declined for 25 years

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The report has some mixed news about prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men.

Between 1991 and 2016, deaths from cancer dropped 27 percent.

The report also shows there's been a decline in the historic racial gap in cancer death rates.

The gradual decline in the number of cancer deaths is largely being driven by "reductions in smoking, but also reflects improvements in treatment for most cancers and earlier detection through screening for some cancers (e.g., breast, cervix, colorectal)" Rebecca Siegel, from the ACS, told Newsweek.

Lung, prostate and colorectal cancers were the greatest killers for men, and lung, breast and colorectal cancers were the greatest killers for women, according to the report.

"Racial disparities largely reflect the disproportionate burden of poverty among blacks", Siegel said. He was particularly struck by the fact that nine women aged 20 to 39 die each week from cervical cancer in the US, despite the fact that Merck & Co.'s Gardasil vaccine can prevent it from forming.

"The largest gaps are for the most preventable cancers", she said. It can take decades to see how a risk factor influences cancer rates, "so we may just be seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the effect of the obesity epidemic on cancer", Siegel said.

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Although the continued decline in overall cancer death rates is good news, the "bad news that this report highlighted [is that] inequalities are widening, particularly among those of low socioeconomic status", said Dr. Darrell Gray II, deputy director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study.

"A lot of what we see here is because of public health initiatives like smoking cessation and early screening", he said.

The report was published online January 8 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Around the world, the number of people diagnosed with cancer seems to be increasing. And when they are confronted by cancer, they often don't have the access to the latest treatments, Paskett explained. Liver cancer death rates also increased by 1.2 percent per year among men and 2.6 percent per year among women, from 2012 to 2016.

"The continued decline in the cancer death rate over the past 25 years is really good news and was a little bit of a surprise, only because the other leading causes of death in the United States are starting to flatten", Rebecca Siegel of the American Cancer Society, and lead author of the study, told CNN. Lung cancer deaths among men declined 48 precent from 1990 to 2016 and dropped 23 percent for women from 2002 to 2016. Researchers report major declines in lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer, with lung cancer rates almost halving between 1990 and 2016 among men and down by 23 percent in women from 2002 to 2016.

Siegel noted that "lung cancer still kills more Americans than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined".

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