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Largest Decrease Ever in US Cancer Deaths: Here's Why

01-10-2020
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Cancer rates are down. Way down. In fact, in the last 30 years, the number of people dying from cancer has fallen by nearly one-third. What does that mean in terms of the number of lives saved? Think of it this way.  If the cancer death rate had remained the same, nearly three million more people would have died.  

Cancer rates have been falling an average of 1.5 percent each year in the past few decades. The biggest one-year decline during that time, actually the biggest decline ever, occurred between 2016 and 2017, when cancer death rates dropped 2.2 percent in just one year, according to a report published by the American Cancer Society

President Trump tweeted the good news Thursday saying, "U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration." (include tweet)

According to Rebecca Siegel, the lead author of the report, the decline can largely be attributed to a decrease in the death rates from lung cancer, the type that claims the most lives.  

She points out two main reasons fewer people are dying from lung cancer. First, fewer people are getting it. "This steady progress is largely due to reductions in smoking," she said.  

Secondly, she points to breakthrough improvements in lung cancer treatment, particularly immunotherapy, which boosts the patient's own ability to fight and destroy cancer by strengthening the body's T cells to kill the tumors.  

In addition to a decline in lung cancer deaths, the report highlights a decrease in deaths from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, largely due to revolutionary new immunotherapy treatments. 

While the overall cancer deaths continue to decline, the report strikes a somber note when it comes to deaths from breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and cervical cancer. Progress has slowed for these diseases. That's tragic. However, what makes it even worse is that these diseases can easily be detected in their very early stages, and as a result, can be successfully treated in a way that the patient can live a long and healthy life. 

Cancer experts say too many people ignore cancer screenings, despite the fact that most insurance plans cover the tests. Certain cancer screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, and pap smears can detect cancer in its earliest stages, usually before the patient even feels anything unusual.  

For example, gastroenterologists point out regular colonoscopies can prevent nearly all cancers of the rectum and colon if people start getting the screenings beginning at the recommended age of 50. However, these same doctors report only 40-percent of people over age 50 choose to get a colonoscopy.

Too often, patients only seek medical help when they begin experiencing symptoms of cancer after the disease has significantly progressed and is harder to treat.  

In addition to not getting cancer screenings, Americans appear to be thwarting cancer death declines by packing on the excess pounds. The rate of obesity-related cancers is on the rise. These include pancreatic, liver, kidney and uterine cancers. 

  

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