Overall cancer mortality rates decrease, but incidence of some cancers increases

The cancer death rate has continued a decline that began in the 1990s, and incidence rates have also decreased. However, new cases of liver, kidney, and pancreatic cancers as well as melanoma rose among men from 2003 to 2007, with accompanying increases in mortality rates for liver, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma.

And although lung-cancer mortality has declined among women for the first time in 40 years, incidence of kidney, thyroid, and pancreatic cancers, as well as leukemia and melanoma, increased from 2003-2007. Death rates among women also climbed not only for pancreatic and liver cancers, but for uterine cancer, following a decrease observed from 1975 through 1997.

These updates appear in “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2007, Featuring Tumors of the Brain and Other Nervous System,” The report, published online on March 31 by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/03/31/jnci.djr077.full.pdf+html), is issued jointly by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Overall, cancer incidence rates fell approximately 1% annually and overall death rates decreased by an average of 1.6% annually between 2003 and 2007. In the most recent 10-year and 5-year periods (1998 and 2003), mortality rates decreased for seven of the top 15 cancer types in both men and women: colon and rectum; brain (malignant); stomach and kidney cancers; and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma. Mortality rates also fell for cancers of the lung, prostate, and oral cavity in men, and for breast and bladder cancers in women.

The incidence of childhood cancer rose by about 0.6% per year from 1992 to 2007, but mortality rates continued a decline that started in the 1970s.

The highest mortality rates overall were seen among black men and women, but these groups also had the greatest reductions in mortality rates from 1998 through 2007. Black men had the highest overall rates for new cancers; white women had the highest incidence rates among women.

The report's special section on brain tumors reveals that the incidence of neuroepithelial brain tumors decreased an average of 0.4% per year from 1987 through 2007, after an annual increase of about 2% from 1980 through 1987.

Lead author Betsy A. Kohler, MPH, CTR, of the NAACCR, and coauthors noted that the “decreases in overall cancer incidence and death rates in nearly all racial and ethnic groups are highly encouraging.” However, they acknowledged that even with incidence rates on the decline, the absolute number of individuals diagnosed with the disease will continue to rise due to the aging of a large segment of the population.

“Effective management of the cancer burden will require the application of sound cancer control strategies in prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship, as well as resources to provide good quality of care,” advised Kohler and associates.
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