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Cancer death rates continue to fall: Most recent federal data

According to newly released federal data, pre-pandemic cancer death rates continued to fall among men, women, children, adolescents, and young adults in every major racial and ethnic group in the United States from 2015 to 2019.

According to the nation’s top health officials, this continues a two-decade trend of declining cancer mortality due to advancements in prevention, detection, and treatment.

According to the most recent Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, new cases of cancer remained stable for men and children, but increased slightly for women, adolescents, and young adults from 2014 to 2018.

The release was co-sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.

The report is based on various datasets from the agencies, including mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

According to Nancy Cronin, deputy associate director of the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Research Program, estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on the number of cancers diagnosed in 2020 will be available early next year. “Given reports of reduced screening in 2020, we anticipate fewer cases being diagnosed in 2020,” added Cronin.

Meanwhile, Cronin stated that strategies to address rising incidence rates would be dependent on the type of cancer and the population affected.

She said that breast cancer, for example, is the most common cancer diagnosed in women, and that female breast cancer is increasing slightly each year. A report has suggested that about 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,400 in men each year in the United States, and about 42,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. die each year from the disease.

Female breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and testicular cancer are on the rise in adolescents and young adults, while thyroid cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma are on the decline.

The report, which was published in the journal Cancer on Thursday, also highlights racial and ethnic disparities in incidence and death rates for a variety of cancer sites.

In an email, Dr. Lisa C. Richardson, director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, expressed “concern” that disparities persist despite significant ongoing advances in cancer outcomes and treatment.

Because many different factors can influence disparities, Richardson believes that ongoing efforts within and outside of the healthcare system are necessary to reduce cancer disparities.

For example, as Richardson stated, it is difficult to eat healthy, safe, and affordable food if there are no grocery stores or fresh food markets nearby. It’s difficult to be physically active if you live in a dangerous neighborhood or if your community lacks sidewalks.

She stated that the CDC and NCI are collaborating with other public health agencies on a variety of strategies, including improving access to cancer screening and establishing community programs linked to clinical services in medically underserved communities.

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, called the report “good news in our fight against cancer” and emphasized the importance of President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative. 

Becerra said in a news release. “I’m deeply impressed by the progress we’re making against cancer and firmly believe we can meet the President’s goal of reducing the death rate from cancer by at least 50% over the next 25 years.”

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