Cancer Death Rates Falling In The US, But It’s Not All Good News

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

Cancer deaths amongst adults in the US declined modestly over the past decade, but incidence rates for children and teenagers has risen slightly since 1992, claims an annual report compiled by a coalition of some of the country´s top cancer organizations.

The rate of death from all cancers dropped in both men and women between the years of 2000 and 2009, researchers revealed on Tuesday. Also during that time, overall cancer incidence rates decreased for men and remained steady for women, increasing only an average of 0.6-percent per year over the past 20 years, they added.

“Cancer rates are declining, continuing a trend that started some years ago. People are surviving more and we are getting better at preventing some cancers,” said Dr. Edward J. Benz, Jr., the president of the Boston-based Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

However, Benz was concerned that the overall incident and mortality rates had not declined enough, in part because “we’re not taking advantage of all the ways to detect cancers at an early stage when they can be the most curable.”

“We don’t look at this as progress,” National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) President Fran Visco, who was not involved in the study, told Sharon Begley of Reuters Health. “This is such incremental improvement, when you look at the decades of investments, the cost of treatments, the number of researchers and journals, and then at the number of people who die … well, we are clearly doing something wrong.”

The cancer-related fatality rate in men decreased 1.8-percent per year from 2005 to 2009, while it fell 1.5-percent per year for women during that same period. Males experienced an average 0.6-percent decline in cancer incident rate from 2000 to 2009. Over the same period, the rate for females held steady, but from just 2005 to 2009, there was actually a 0.6-percent increase in incidence rate.

“The trend in childhood cancer is also going in the wrong direction. From 2000 to 2009, cancer incidence among children 19 and younger rose 0.7 percent per year, on average,” Begley wrote, citing report figures. “Experts are not sure why the numbers are rising. But one reason may be, paradoxically, greater access to health insurance.”

“An uninsured child who developed flu-like symptoms in the 1990s might have died from what was actually leukemia, but without medical care his death certificate said pneumonia,” the Reuters reporter explained. “With insurance, that child now is more likely to see a doctor and get correctly diagnosed.”

The report, which was co-authored by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American Cancer Society (ACS), did report that death rates among some forms of cancer are still increasing. Those cancer types include liver, pancreatic, and melanoma (severe skin cancer).

Prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colorectal cancers all saw decreases in incidence rate, according to the Associated Press (AP). Breast cancer rates among women have leveled off in terms of incidence rates, except in black women, where they have actually increased, according to the report, which appears in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“Another problem area: Oral and anal cancers caused by HPV, the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, are on the rise among both genders,” the wire service said. “HPV is better known for causing cervical cancer, and a protective vaccine is available. Government figures show just 32 per cent of teen girls have received all three doses of the vaccine available to them, fewer than in Canada, Britain and Australia. The vaccine was recommended for U.S. boys about a year ago.”

“We are seeing a large number of patients with HPV-associated head and neck cancer and these patients are relatively young, are typically non-smokers and quite often have children,” Dr. Robert I. Haddad, chief of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute´s head and neck oncology program, explained. “HPV is a cause of many cancers, so it is really important to support endeavors to vaccinate.”

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