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American Cancer Society
The death rate from cancer in the US declined
by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest
single-year drop ever recorded, according to annual statistics reporting from
the American Cancer Society. The decline in deaths from lung cancer drove the
record drop. Deaths fell from about 3% per year from 2008 – 2013 to 5% from
2013 – 2017 in men and from 2% to almost 4% in women. However, lung cancer is
still the leading cause of cancer death.
The decline in the death rate over the past
26 years has been steady. Overall cancer death rates dropped by an average of
1.5% per year between 2008 and 2017. This translates to more than 2.9 million
deaths avoided since 1991, when rates were at their highest. A total of
1,806,590 new cancer cases and 606,520 deaths are expected in the US in 2020,
which is about 4,950 new cases and more than 1,600 deaths each day.
The numbers are reported in “Cancer Statistics, 2020,” published in the
American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal CA: A Cancer Journal for
Clinicians. The annual report estimates the numbers of new cancer cases
and deaths expected in the US each year. The estimates are some of the most
widely quoted cancer statistics in the world. The information is also released
in a companion report, Cancer
Facts and Figures 2020, available on the interactive website, the Cancer
cancer types: Lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer
The 26-year decline in overall cancer deaths
is due to long-term drops in death rates in the 4 most common cancer types: lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate.
Progress in reducing lung cancer deaths has improved due to declines in smoking
and advances in early
detection and treatment.
However, progress in reducing colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers has
These 4 cancers also account for the greatest
numbers of cancer deaths. Almost one-quarter of all cancer deaths are due to
lung cancer, more than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined.
The steepest declines in cancer deaths
occurred for melanoma
skin cancer, due in part to the immunotherapy
drugs Yervoy (ipilimumab) and Zelboraf (vemurafenib), which the FDA approved in
2011. The overall melanoma death rate dropped by 7% per year during 2013-2017
in people ages 20 to 64, 1% per year in people ages 50 to 64, and 5% to 6% in
people 65 and older. Progress in the 65+ age group is especially significant,
because rates before 2013 had been increasing.
“The accelerated drops in lung cancer
mortality as well as in melanoma that we’re seeing are likely due at least in
part to advances in cancer treatment over the past decade, such as immunotherapy,”
said William G. Cance, MD, chief medical and scientific officer for the
American Cancer Society, in a statement. “They are a profound reminder of how
rapidly this area of research is expanding, and now leading to real hope for
Improvements in targeted
therapies and other treatments have helped drive progress for some types of
leukemia and lymphoma. For example,
the 5-year relative survival rate for chronic
myeloid leukemia increased from 22% in the mid-1970s to 70% for those
diagnosed during 2009 through 2015, and most people treated with tyrosine
kinase inhibitors now have nearly normal life expectancy.
Cancer in adolescents and young adults
Each year, American Cancer Society
researchers include a special section in Cancer Facts & Figures
highlighting an issue of cancer research or care. This year, the topic is
cancer in adolescents
adults (AYAs). In 2020, researchers expect there to be 89,500 new cancer
cases and 9,270 cancer deaths among AYAs, ages 15 to 39 years old.
As more research focuses on these patients,
we are learning more about how cancers in this age group develop and are best
highlights from the report:
“Cancer Statistics 2020” can be viewed at cacancerjournal.com, while “Cancer Facts & Figures 2020” is available at cancer.org/statistics.