U.S. Cancer Death Rates Continue to Drop

January 8, 2013

Dineo Khabele, M.D.

Dineo Khabele, M.D.

Cancer death rates for most forms of cancer have continued to decline in the United States among men and women and all major racial and ethnic groups, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, (1975-2009). The report, produced since 1988, shows a slow but steady decline in the death rate for all of the most common forms of cancer, including lung, colon and rectum, female breast and prostate.

However, the report also indicates that death rates have continued to increase during the latest time period (2000 through 2009) for melanoma of the skin (men only) and cancers of the liver, pancreas and uterus.

The decline in overall cancer death rates continues a trend that began in the early 1990s. From 2000 through 2009, cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year among men and by 1.4 percent per year among women. Death rates among children up to 14 years of age also continued to decrease by 1.8 percent per year.

The report is co-authored by researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).

This year’s report highlights forms of cancer associated with human papillomavirus (HPV), including cervical cancer and some types of head and neck cancer. The report indicates that from 2000 through 2009, incidence rates for HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer (tonsils and middle part of the throat) increased among white men and women, as did rates for anal cancer among white and black men and women.

Vaccinating against HPV can prevent some of these forms of cancer, but the vaccination rate in the U.S. is far lower than vaccination rates in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Tennessee is among the states where only 25.5 to 32 percent of adolescent girls have received the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine.

“The burden of HPV-associated cancers falls disproportionately on black and Hispanic women and patients in rural areas who are not getting routine access to health care,” said Dineo Khabele, M.D., assistant professor of Obstetrics/Gynecology, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Khabele said too many patients arrive at the cancer center with advanced cancer, which indicates they were not receiving regular care.

“A combination of vaccination and routine health care, including screening, could eliminate cervical cancer,” said Khabele.

The latest Annual Report to the Nation appears online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and will be published in the print issue 3, volume 105.

 

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