US cancer death rate drops again in 2006

May 27, 2009 By MIKE STOBBE , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- The U.S. cancer death rate fell again in 2006, a new analysis shows, continuing a slow downward trend that experts attribute to declines in smoking, earlier detection and better treatment.

About 560,000 people died of cancer that year, according to an American Cancer Society report released Wednesday. The new numbers show the death rate fell by less than 2 percent, but since that decline was better than the previous year, the cancer society applauded the progress.

Others said the change was not a big deal.

"The improvement was modest," said Dr. Michael Goodman, an Emory University researcher who specializes in cancer statistics.

Cancer is the nation's No. 2 killer, behind heart disease, and accounts for nearly a quarter of annual deaths. The cancer death rate has been falling since the early 1990s.

The new rate shows 181 cancer deaths per 100,000 people. That was down from about 184 in 2005.

It takes a rate decline of at least 2 percent to offset population growth and cause a drop in the actual number of cancer deaths. That happened in 2002 and 2003 for the first time since 1930. But it hasn't happened since.

The explanation for why the death rate has fallen depends on the type of cancer. For example, better screening has improved deaths from colon cancer. Treatment advances are more of a factor in leukemia death rates. And is the main reason behind improvements in male deaths.

"What we call 'cancer' is really a great variety of different conditions," Goodman said.

Lung cancer accounted for nearly 30 percent of cancer deaths in 2006. Cancers of the colon and rectum accounted for 10 percent, breast cancer in females about 7 percent and prostate cancers in men about 5 percent.

The statistical report is based on the cancer society's analysis of federal data.

Separate numbers on specific cancer death rates for 2006 from the U.S. sheds more light on the picture. The CDC recently reported death rates fell for:

- Lung and trachea cancers, from 54 deaths per 100,000 in 2005 to 51.5 in 2006.

- Colorectal cancers, from 18 to 17 per 100,000.

- Breast cancer, from 27 to 23.5 per 100,000.

Overall, it's hard to know exactly what drives one year's decline in cancer deaths, because the answer is rooted in the past, said Ahmedin Jemal, the cancer society official who lead the research behind the new report.

"When you introduce a change in screening or prevention, it takes five years or 10 years" to see the impact on cancer , Jemal said. Treatment advances can have a more immediate impact, he added.

Cancer society officials estimate that 650,000 deaths were avoided from 1990 to 2005 because of the decline in the death rate. They predict that 1,479,350 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2009, and that there will be 562,340 deaths.

The new report is being released Wednesday online, and will be published in the July/August print issue of a Cancer Society publication, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

--

On the Net:

The Society journal: http://cacancerjournal.org

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: AstraZeneca cancer drug, companion test approved

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study links smoking with most male cancer deaths

Jan 21, 2009

The association between tobacco smoke and cancer deaths — beyond lung cancer deaths — has been strengthened by a recent study from a UC Davis researcher, suggesting that increased tobacco control efforts could save more ...

New report estimates 12 million cancer deaths worldwide

Dec 17, 2007

A new American Cancer Society report estimates that there will be over 12 million new cancer cases and 7.6 million cancer deaths (about 20,000 cancer deaths a day) worldwide in 2007. The estimate comes from the first-ever ...

CT lung cancer screening no cure-all for smokers

Jun 10, 2008

Screening for lung cancer with computed tomography (CT) may help reduce lung cancer deaths in current and former smokers, but it won't protect them from other causes of death associated with smoking, according to a new study ...

Half of cancers related to lifestyle

Apr 07, 2006

A report by the American Cancer Society says that half the cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented by lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking.

Recommended for you

Putting the brakes on cancer

Dec 19, 2014

A study led by the University of Dundee, in collaboration with researchers at our University, has uncovered an important role played by a tumour suppressor gene, helping scientists to better understand how ...

Peanut component linked to cancer spread

Dec 19, 2014

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that a component of peanuts could encourage the spread and survival of cancer cells in the body.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.