Jan 13, 2023 - Health

U.S. cancer deaths fall, study finds

5-year relative cancer survival rate among select cancer types
Data: American Cancer Society; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

U.S. cancer death rates have fallen by a third since 1991, with about 3.8 million deaths averted in that time, according to study published Thursday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Why it matters: Cancer is still the second leading cause of death, but the data shows progress from improved treatments and prevention efforts.

  • That includes noteworthy drops in mortality from leukemia, melanoma, and kidney cancers between 2016–2020, despite steady or even increasing incidence.
  • The five-year survival rate for many cancers improved from the mid-1990s and the 2012–2018 time frame, particularly for lung, breast and colon cancers.

Be smart: One example of the nuances is cervical cancer.

  • There was a 65% drop in cervical cancer incidence between 2012 through 2019 among women in their early 20s, who were part of the first cohort to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine.
  • But there was still an overall decline in five-year cervical cancer survival since the mid-1990s.
  • That is thought to reflect increased prevalence of cervical cancer known as adenocarcinoma, which has worse survival than squamous cell carcinoma and is less likely to be detected through Pap tests, American Cancer Society officials said.

What to watch: The progress may be stymied by rising incidence of breast, prostate and uterine cancer rates, which also have the greatest racial disparities in survival, researchers said.

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