President Donald Trump insinuated in a tweet on Thursday that his administration played a role in the US cancer death rate hitting a record low in 2017. The American Cancer Society says that’s not true.
Trump’s tweet appeared to be referring to the findings of an American Cancer Society report released on Wednesday, which said the rate of people dying from cancer in the United States declined in 2017 for the 26th year in a row. Trump took office in January 2017.
The report, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, said that the cancer death rate had fallen “continuously” from 1991 through 2017.
The report also found that from 2016 to 2017, the United States saw its largest-ever single-year drop in overall cancer deaths, a 2.2% decline spurred in part by a sharp fall in lung cancer deaths.
Trump’s tweet on Thursday said, “U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration.”
Gary M. Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told CNN that the 2017 findings are not connected to the actions of the Trump administration.
“The mortality trends reflected in our current report, including the largest drop in overall cancer mortality ever recorded from 2016 to 2017, reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years,” Reedy said in a written statement on Thursday.
“Since taking office, the president has signed multiple spending bills that have included increases in funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute – though the impact of those increases are not reflected in the data contained in this report,” he said.
“The administration has an opportunity to significantly impact future declines in both cancer incidence and mortality by increasing access to comprehensive health care, supporting robust and sustained increases in federal funding for cancer research and passing and implementing evidence-based tobacco control policies.”
The President has a history of proposing to cut funding from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, which includes funding for the National Cancer Institute, an agency that leads, conducts and supports cancer research. The final budgets that Congress approved ended up being more generous than Trump’s proposals.
Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote on Twitter, in response to Trump, that “cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets, which sought billions in CUTS to @NIH and the National Cancer Institute. This is good news despite you - not because of you.”
Dr. Charles Fuchs, director of the Yale Cancer Center in New Haven, Connecticut, previously told CNN that the new American Cancer Society report highlights both the significant progress made in reducing cancer deaths and the areas where more work needs to be done.
While improvements in cancer treatments, such as immunotherapies, have played a role in reducing cancer deaths in the United States, Fuchs said there is still much to learn about how to advance new and emerging treatment options even further. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that helps the immune system fight the disease.
“Those treatments work for some cancers, but not all. So I think we have to better understand how can we further leverage that success to understand how to activate the immune system to attack the other major cancers,” said Fuchs, who was not involved in the report.
Fuchs also said that improvements could be made in reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities, increasing cancer screening rates, such as for colon cancer, and reducing the prevalence of certain risk factors for cancer, such as overweight and obesity. It has been estimated that about 20% of all cancers are tied to excess weight.
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“The bottom line is that this report is great news,” Fuchs said.
“I don’t want to overlook that fact, nor do I want to minimize that fact,” he said. “This report demonstrates extraordinary progress in our battle against cancer in terms of detection, improving treatment, improving mortality, improving screening technologies – and given that tremendous success, I’m excited about the opportunity to work toward even more improvements.”