Report: Cancer death rates continue to decline


ATLANTA — Mortality rates from all cancers combined continued to drop between 2004 and 2008 among men, women and children, according to the annual "Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2008."

In addition to the decrease in death rates, which saw on average 1.6% decrease per year between 2004 and 2008, the overall incidence of cancer among men decreased by an average of 0.6% per year during the period, decreased 0.5% per year for women from 1998 through 2006 (with rates leveling off from 2006 through 2008) and decreased 1.3% per year between 2004 and 2008 among children ages 19 years and younger, the report's researchers, which are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society said.

"The continued declines in death rates for all cancers, as well as the overall drop in incidence, is powerful evidence that the nation′s investment in cancer research produces lifesaving approaches to cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment," NCI director Harold Varmus said. "But it is also important to note that investments we make today are critical if we hope to see these declines in incidence and death from cancer reflected in future Reports to the Nation."

Despite these recorded declines, the report's researchers noted that such factors as excess weight and lack of physical activity can increase one's cancer risk and cited certain cancers as being associated with being overweight or obese, as well as not being sufficiently physically active.

"In the United States, 2-in-3 adults are overweight or obese and fewer than half get enough physical activity," American Cancer Society CEO John Seffrin said. "Between children and youth, 1-in-3 is overweight or obese, and fewer than 1-in-4 high school students get recommended levels of physical activity. Obesity and physical inactivity are critical problems facing all states. For people who do not smoke, excess weight and lack of sufficient physical activity may be among the most important risk factors for cancer."

Additional findings of the report included:

  • Although mortality rates declines, cancer incidence rates increased 0.6% per year from 2004 through 2008, continuing trends from 1992, among children ages 19 years and younger;

  • Among racial and ethnic groups, the highest cancer incidence rates between 2004 and 2008 were among African-American men and white women. Cancer death rates from 2004 through 2008 were highest among African-American men and African-American women, but these groups showed the largest declines for the period between 1999 and 2008, compared with other racial groups;

  • In addition to drops in overall cancer mortality and incidence, this year's report also documents the second consecutive year of decreasing lung cancer mortality rates among women. Among men, lung cancer incidence has decreased since the early 1990s.

The new report appears early online in the journal Cancer and will appear in print in the May issue.

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