Report: Cancer death rates continue to decline


An annual report shows cancer death rates continued to decline from 2001 to 2017 in the United States.

This year’s report showed that overall cancer death rates decreased by 1.5% on average per year from 2001 to 2017. Among men, the decrease was roughly 1.8% per year and among women, it was 1.4% per year.

These decreases were seen in all major racial and ethnic groups.

“The United States continues to make significant progress in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D. “While we are encouraged that overall cancer death rates have decreased, there is still much more we can do to prevent new cancers and support communities, families, and cancer survivors in this ongoing battle.”

The report found that from 2013 to 2017:

  • Among men, death rates decreased for 11 of the 19 most common cancers, were stable for four cancers (including prostate), and increased for four cancers (oral cavity and pharynx, soft tissue including heart, brain, and other nervous systems as well as pancreas).
  • Among women, death rates decreased for 14 of the 20 most common cancers, including the three most common cancers (lung and bronchus, breast, and colorectal), but increased for cancers of the uterus, liver, brain and other nervous systems as well as soft tissue including heart, and pancreas. Rates were stable for oral cavity and pharynx cancer.
  • Overall cancer death rates among children ages 0 to 14 years decreased an average of 1.4% per year. Among adolescents and young adults ages 15 to 39 years, overall cancer death rates decreased an average of 1.0% per year.
  • Melanoma death rates decreased 6.1% per year among men and 6.3% per year among women.
  • Lung cancer death rates decreased by 4.8% per year among men and 3.7% per year among women. However, lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer death, accounting for about one-fourth of all cancer deaths.

“Thanks to advances brought about by basic research, we are making remarkable progress against cancer,” said NCI Director Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, M.D. “This report provides further evidence that cancer death rates continue to decline. But we must not be complacent. The cancer incidence data—especially the increase in cancer among women—is a clear reminder that there is more work ahead.”

For the first time, the report provided rates and trends for the most common cancers among children, younger than 15 years, as well as among adolescents and young adults ages 15–39 years.

Among adolescents and young adults, overall cancer incidence rates increased an average of 0.9% per year from 2012 to 2016.

“We look forward to improving surveillance of childhood cancers in the future by establishing specific databases for children to study these rare cancers. There are many unanswered questions in the realm of pediatric cancer and improving our tools to study them is essential to their ultimate prevention,” said NAACCR Director Betsy Kohler.

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