Report: Cancer death rates declined between 2001 and 2017

17 March 2020

Tina Reed / FierceHealthcare

In the midst of an otherwise unsettling week on the health front, researchers provided a glimmer of good news: Cancer deaths have continued to drop.

In the "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer" published in the journal Cancer, researchers found overall cancer death rates decreased 1.5% on average per year from 2001 to 2017. Cancer rates decreased more rapidly among men (1.8% annually) than among women (1.4% annually).

The report—which is a collaborative effort among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries—found that overall cancer death rates decreased in every racial and ethnic group between 2013 and 2017. 

“The United States continues to make significant progress in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment,” said CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., in a statement. “While we are encouraged that overall cancer death rates have decreased, there is still much more we can do to prevent new cancers and support communities, families, and cancer survivors in this ongoing battle.”

The report also found between 2013 and 2017:

The researchers also released a companion paper to the report measuring progress toward the federal government’s 10-year national objectives known as “Healthy People 2020.” Specifically, researchers looked at progress in four common cancers: lung, prostate, female breast and colorectal.

Healthy People 2020 targets for reducing death rates were met for all cancers combined as well as for lung, prostate, female breast and colorectal cancers overall—although not in all individual sociodemographic groups.

Healthy People 2020 targets were not met for adults to decrease cigarette smoking, to increase smoking cessation success, to reduce excessive alcohol use or to reduce obesity prevalence—all behaviors linked to cancer risk.

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