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Sharp Melanoma and Lung Cancer Declines Lead To Overall Drop in Cancer Rates: CDC

Federal health officials report drops in lung cancer and melanoma death rates have been considerable over the past decade, leading to an overall drop in cancer rates nationwide.

According to a press release issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on July 8, despite an overall decrease in death rates of common cancers, the cancer incidence rates continue to increase among females, children, and adolescents, and young adults.

The data comes from a report by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which was included in the CDC’s Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.

The report shows a decrease in death rates for 11 of the 19 most common cancers for men, and for 14 of the 20 most common cancers for women, from 2014 to 2018.

A rapid decrease occurred for lung cancer and melanoma rates over this period. Colorectal and female breast cancer death rates also decreased over this time period, and those for prostate cancer leveled off. However, death rates increased slightly for a few cancers, such as brain cancer and other nervous system cancers, pancreas cancer in both sexes, oral cavity and pharynx in males, and liver and uterus cancer in females.

Researchers suggested the increases were due to risk factors such as obesity and smoking. However, overall, the death rate has been decreasing at a faster rate in recent years. In males, a decline of 1.8% per year from 2001 to 2015 accelerated to a decline of 2.3% per year from 2015 to 2018. In females, a decline of 1.4% per year from 2001 to 2015 accelerated to a decline of 2.1% per year from 2015 to2018.

The report indicates the overall cancer death rate decreased in every racial and ethnic group from 2014 to 2018.

Other key findings indicate overall cancer incidence rates were higher among men than women in every racial and ethnic group, except Asian/Pacific Islander population, where the rates were close. Overall cancer incidence rates were slightly lower among Black people than White people, yet overall cancer death rates were higher among Black people than White people.

CDC researchers say the data from the report can help inform healthcare providers about where to increase efforts related to cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment, and for the need for equitable implementation of effective interventions, especially among under-resourced populations.

“The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum – from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society, said in the CDC press release. “While we celebrate the progress, we must remain committed to research, patient support, and advocacy to make even greater progress to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families.”

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