US cancer deaths are decreasing, study finds

PHOTO: Chemotherapy is administered to a cancer patient at Duke Cancer Center in Durham, North Carolina, Sept. 5, 2013.PlayGerry Broome/AP Photo
WATCH US cancer deaths are decreasing, study finds

More people are surviving the most common forms of cancer as cancer deaths continue to trend downward for both men and women in the U.S., according to a new study published today by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

From 2010 to 2014, overall cancer deaths in men decreased by 1.8 percent per year, 1.4 percent per year for women and 1.6 percent per year for children. Researchers from multiple institutions, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, examined data from population-based cancer registry programs and compiled by North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) to look at cancer deaths and survival rates after cancer diagnosis during different time periods from 1975 to 2014.

"Overall cancer death rates continue to decrease in the United States, reflecting improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment," the authors wrote.

They found improvements in survival across a range of the most common cancers between 2010 and 2014. In men, these improvements included a decrease in lung cancer deaths by 3.5 percent per year, a decrease in prostate cancer deaths by 3.4 percent per year and a decrease in colorectal cancer deaths by 2.5 percent pear year.

In women, death rates decreased for 13 of the 18 most common cancers from 2010 to 2014. This included a decrease in breast cancer deaths by 1.6 percent per year, in lung cancer deaths by 2.0 percent per year and colorectal cancer deaths by 2.8 percent per year.

There was an uptick in deaths due to certain cancers, including liver cancer, for both sexes between 2010 to 2014. Liver cancer deaths were up by 2.6 percent per year for men and by 3.0 percent per year for women. Deaths due to pancreas and brain cancer increased per year for men as well, while uterine cancer also increased per year for women.

The authors noted that the decreased deaths are likely due to better surveillance and prevention steps, while new treatments have also helped improve life expectancy. They added that new treatments like immunotherapy could lead to significant improvements in survival rates in the future.

"In this era of increasingly personalized cancer therapy, it is hoped that dramatic progress in treatment and survival will be observed for other cancer types as well," the authors wrote.

Despite these improvements, the authors noted that the medical community cannot simply think that these trends will continue as "progress in reducing mortality and improving survival is limited for several cancers."

Additionally, they pointed out that the cost of certain medications could affect these survival outcomes and that the medical community needs to pursue both new treatments and ways for patients to access them in order to save more lives.

"Some of the new cancer drugs cost $10 000 per month and are not affordable even by most insured patients because of the high out of pocket expenses, which are about 20 percent of the drug’s cost for Medicare-insured patients," they wrote. "We must not only intensify efforts to develop effective targeted therapies and find cures, but also heighten our efforts to broadly and equitably apply proven preventive measures."

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