"Although we hope that this decline will continue (and possibly accelerate) in future years, we can't be certain until the data is available," Lichtenfeld wrote.
"Much of our success will be in a succession of small steps, and not huge breakthroughs -- although, fortunately, those do happen from time to time."
The discovery of a decline in death rate from cancer is tempered by the fact that experts project that more than half a million Americans will die of cancer this year. This makes cancer the nation's top cause of death for those under the age of 85.
Plus, death rates from certain types of cancer are still on the rise, the report found.
"Unfortunately, not all of the news is good," Lichtenfeld wrote. He said these cancers include cancers of the esophagus, liver and bile ducts in men. He adds that lung cancer in women is also claiming lives at an increased rate.
"No doubt, we still have a long way to go," Lichtenfeld wrote. "Despite our progress, an estimated 559,650 Americans will lose their lives to cancer in 2007, which is over 1,500 deaths every day of the year."
And whether the improvements continue could hinge on availability of government funding, according to ACS officers. The importance of this funding may have been underscored by a scheduling change in the release of the figures in order to coincide with a visit by President Bush to the National Institutes of Health.
"The drops come at a time of great concern about future progress," said Dr. Richard Wender, national volunteer president of the ACS, in a press release issued today. "[T]hese gains are threatened by cutbacks in funding for research and prevention programs. A few years after our nation doubled its investment in medical research, Congress cut cancer funding for the first time in more than a decade.
"I hope today's news demonstrates that the resources spent on this fight have been worthwhile and inspires our lawmakers to recommit themselves to it."