Study: U.S. cancer rates declining
March 13, 1998
The incidence of cancer is declining in the United
States for the first time in 20 years
Web posted at: 1:23 p.m. EST (1823 GMT)
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Reversing an almost 20-year trend, the
incidence or rate of new cancer cases among Americans is
finally inching downward, giving doctors new hope that the
disease can be successfully treated and prevented.
A combined study from the American Cancer Society, the
National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention said death rates from cancer also are
Between 1990 and 1995, the incidence of all types of cancer,
on average, decreased 0.7 percent per year, compared to an
increase of 1.2 percent each year between 1973 and 1990, the
study found. The report, released Thursday, tracks trends
related to 23 different types of cancers.
The report showed the incidence rates declined for most age
groups, for both men and women, and for most racial and
ethnic groups, with the exception of black males for whom the
incidence rate increased and Asian and Pacific Islander
females whose rates remained level.
"The main cancers that contribute to this downturn in
incidence are lung cancer in males, prostate cancer and
colorectal cancers in males and females," said one of the
study's authors, Phyllis Wingo of the American Cancer
Preliminary results from 1996 suggest the downturn is
continuing, said Dr. Edward Sondik from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Deaths from cancer are decreasing at a rate of 0.5 percent
per year, after increasing, on average, 0.4 percent per year
from 1973 to 1990.
The decline in mortality was greater for men than for women.
Almost all racial and ethnic groups are included in this
downturn, except for Asian and Pacific Islander females.
Breast cancer rates start to level off
Here are some other findings:
- While men are developing lung cancer less, the disease is
still on the rise among white, Asian, and Pacific Islander
women, and more women are dying from lung cancer than men.
- Breast cancer, once steadily rising at a rate of 1.8
percent a year, has started to level off. Researchers say
better screening through mammographies and patient education
are making a difference.
- Black men still have the nation's highest cancer-incidence
rate, which is climbing almost 0.5 percent a year.
- Some types of cancer, such as deadly melanoma and non-
Hodgkin's lymphoma, are on the rise. However, the rate of
prostate cancer is decreasing in whites and blacks, and colon
cancer is down in all ethnic groups.
"We have to make sure that the best (medical) practices are
being applied to everyone," said National Cancer Institute
Director Richard Klausner, warning that cancer remains "a
Stopping the use of tobacco helps
Frequent checkups and healthy living are good
While Wingo said she cannot explain why there has been a
decline in some cancer occurrences and death rates, some
scientists speculate that dropping tobacco use is a factor.
Americans are also getting better cancer screening, so that,
for example, precancerous colon polyps may more often be
detected and removed before they can turn into tumors.
But scientists are unclear about the role improved diet has
played in helping to cut cancer rates, because obesity in the
United States has become more common. Nevertheless, Wingo
said now is not the time to kick back and forget about
Instead, she said, "I think it's a time to accelerate
programs that we already have in place, and continue to
improve them so that we can continue to make headway against
Researchers warn that the results of the study should be
interpreted with caution.
The data was collected from five states and four major
metropolitan areas, representing less than 10 percent of the
U.S. population. The report is being published in Cancer,
the journal of the American Cancer Society.
Correspondent Steve Salvatore contributed to this report.