Jan 19, 2023 - Podcasts

Declining cancer deaths in the U.S.

Cancer mortality rates have fallen by one-third since the early 1990s, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. When you zoom in, the picture becomes a little more complicated.

  • Plus, Americans are spending more than they earn.
  • And, the price of eggs is still sky high.

Guests: Axios' Kelly Tyko, Emily Peck and The Atlantic's Derek Thompson.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Thursday, January 19th.

I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

Today: Americans are spending more than they earn…And the price of eggs is part of the problem. But first, is it time for a new kind of cancer moonshot? Declining cancer deaths in the U.S. – that’s today’s One Big Thing.

ERICA: Cancer mortality rates have fallen by one-third since the early 1990s. That's according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. It's great news, but when you zoom in, the picture becomes a little more complicated. Derek Thompson, staff writer at The Atlantic is here with more.

So Derek, why have cancer death rates fallen so much, and where have we seen the most progress?

DEREK THOMPSON: My expectation when I first read this news was that the reason cancer mortality had fallen so much since the early 1990s was mostly because we came up with all of these incredible breakthroughs. I mean, since the war on cancer was originally declared in the 1970s we have spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to come up with these miracle cures. But when I dug into it, it turned out that really it's more about behavioral changes and new screening protocols, which have led to a decline in lung cancer mortality and a decline in prostate cancer mortality. And that really seems to be the bulk of the story here.

ERICA: So are we just getting better at catching it early? Is that what you're saying?

DEREK: We're getting better at catching it early and we're getting better at never developing certain cancers at all. So you look at a cancer like lung cancer, the rates of which increase by a factor of 30x or 50x over the course of the 20th century, in large part due to smoking. But basically, lung cancer was in large part of cigarette story, and the cigarette story of the 20th century was one of rise and fall, like smoking in America hit basically a historic high of about 4,500 cigarettes per person per year in 1963. That declined by more than 50% by the end of the century. And so as behavior changed, the rates of people getting those kind of lung and bronchus cancers went way, way down.

ERIC: And how has the progress in cancer mortality overall played out? When you look at different racial groups. There's a disparity there, right?

DEREK: There's absolutely a disparity. It has been the case that non-white Americans have higher cancer mortality rates than white Americans. This has to do number one with environmental factors. Non-white Americans tend to be lower income, they tend to grow up in areas that might have environmental degradation or environmental maladies that are gonna make them sick. But then also you have inequality of access once someone does contract a cancer. And that access can play out in, less screening for something like prostate cancer or, you know, worse treatment for something like lung cancer or, you know, some other cancer. And so, yes, you absolutely do continue to see these disparities. Nonetheless, we have seen declines in cancer mortality across all groups in the last 30 years.

ERICA: What does this mean for the medical community going forward? I mean, you write about President Biden's Cancer Moonshot Initiative to reduce the cancer death rate by half within 25 years. How can they use this information that the American Cancer Society put out?

DEREK: It's a great question. The Biden administration has its own Cancer Moonshot initiative. They're going to plow lots and lots of money into research in late stage cancers. I would simply encourage people who you know might be listening to this podcast are involved in the Cancer Moonshot Initiative with the Biden administration to heed the clear themes and takeaways of this report, which is that as much as we spend on late stage cancers, and of course it's really, really important to try to cure cancer when people get it. It's behavioral changes and improved screening that seems to be driving the overwhelming majority of progress on cancer. So I wonder what would a moonshot for cancer screenings and tests look like? What would it look like if we had access to blood tests that we could take at home that could tell us that we had stage one cancers, that we didn't even need these extremely expensive and experimental cures, for stage three and stage four cancers? I would love to see an extraordinary revolution in screenings and tests, and not just in late stage cancer cures.

ERICA: Derek Thompson is a staff writer at The Atlantic. Thanks, Derek.

DEREK: Thank you.

ERICA: In a moment: why eggs are still so expensive at the grocery store.


The price of eggs is still sky high

ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

I'm sure you've noticed that eggs are expensive. In December, the price of eggs increased by nearly 60% compared to 2021. That's according to the latest Consumer Price Index, and the price of a dozen large eggs jumped 66 cents on average from November to December. Axios’ Kelly Tyko has been covering this.

So Kelly inflation has affected a lot of things at the grocery store, but why are eggs so expensive?

KELLY TYKO: Well, there are a lot of factors on why eggs are so expensive right now. Inflation, of course, is a big one, but the bird flu is one of the biggest reasons why we're seeing the price. Nearly 60 million birds have died because of the bird flu in the last year, and 41 million of those birds are egg laying hens. So that's a real big driver for these rising prices.

ERICA: So are there just fewer eggs available in the world?

KELLY: Right now, there's been a lot of demand, that's one reason. It depends on the time of year, Christmas time, there's a lot of people baking. And we're still dealing with the price increases from December. I know I've been to the store in the last couple days and the prices are, are, are pretty high still. The experts I talk to say that prices at the wholesale level are starting to retreat, but it could take longer before we see these prices decline at the grocery store.

ERICA: And what does the price of eggs tell you about the current state of our economy at large?

KELLY: Well, it can give us a clue about the current economic environments. Eggs are such an important ingredient. You know, they're protein, but they're used in so many products. I see a lot of posts on Facebook and social media about people not being able to find eggs, eggs selling out, especially at Costco and other places where they are discounted. So, I think that they're still buying them but there's a struggle right now to find them. I mean, think about gas prices. Gas prices right now are lower than egg prices in some parts of the country. But, eggs are used by so many families and so many homes across the country just like gas.

ERICA: So I know this is a situation that's in flux, but when can we expect to see the price of eggs go?

KELLY: That's going to depend, it could depend on your, on where you live. It could depend on the grocery store you shop at. And, like I said, the wholesale prices are starting to go down. But, it could take some time before we see that, you know, translate to discounts. I did ask if maybe we might have lower prices before Easter. We have a couple months until then, but we'll have to wait and see.

ERICA: Kelly Tyko is a senior reporter for Axios. Thanks Kelly.

KELLY: Thanks.

Americans are spending more than they earn

ERICA: So those pricey eggs are one of the factors leading an increasing share of Americans to spend more than they make. Axios’ Emily Peck has the data.

EMILY PECK: Hey Erica, so here's the update. High prices are still a big and ongoing problem for individuals. So, now that you're heading to the grocery store, you're faced with really high prices like those egg prices that Kelly just told you about. And you know, shoppers have to make trade offs, for example, in order to afford rising food prices of 12% year over year per the latest Consumer Price Index numbers, households cut back on restaurant spending.

So, bottom line things are more expensive. People are spending less money and some people are spending more money than their earning, particularly those at the low end of the income scale, according to a morning consult survey released Wednesday morning. So, 28% of those earning less than $50,000 a year said their expenses outweighed their income in December, which is a big jump from 21% the year before, and even those earning more than a $100,000 a year, 9% of those folks they spent more money than they brought in, and that's up two percentage points from the prior year.

ERICA: That’s Axios’ Markets Correspondent Emily Peck.

Year of the Rabbit

ERICA: One last thing before we go today: the Lunar New Year begins this Sunday. And in the Chinese zodiac, this is the year of the rabbit… which is known to be the luckiest of the 12 animals.

If you celebrate the Lunar New Year, do you have any favorite traditions? Text them to us as a voice memo to (202) 918-4893 or in an email to podcasts at axios dot com and we may include them on the show.

That’s all we’ve got for you today! I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

If your head spins from all the latest happenings in business and tech, check out the podcast “The Hustle Daily Show.” It’s a smart, compact take on the day's business and tech news… with an offbeat twist. They cover everything from ‘The US TikTok Ban’ to ‘How McDonalds is selling more Big Macs by tapping into millennial nostalgia’. Listen to “The Hustle Daily Show” in your favorite podcast app... like the one you're using right now!

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