(HealthDay News) — About 14.5 million U.S. cancer survivors are alive today, compared to just three million in 1971, the American Association for Cancer Research reported Tuesday.
“Prevention has been the biggest contributor, with smoking cessation as a bigger overall driver of the decline in mortality” than scientific treatment advances, Otis Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, told HealthDay. “People who stopped smoking in the 1960s and 1970s did not die in the 1990s and beyond, and that’s why it took until 1991 for mortality to start going down big-time.”
Yet two looming issues may have a significant impact on increasing cancer rates in the future. One is the currently aging population. Most cancers occur in people aged 65 and older, and the number of Americans in this age group is expected to double by the year 2060. That portends an increase in cancer diagnoses from 1.6 million in the United States in 2014 to an estimated 2.4 million in 2035. The other issue relates to widespread obesity. The report notes that one-third of all newly diagnosed cancers in the United States are related to being overweight or obese. These include esophageal, colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and postmenopausal breast cancers.
Also noteworthy, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved six new anticancer drugs in the past year (five targeted therapies, one chemotherapy drug) and allowed new uses for five existing anticancer therapeutics, the report said. The FDA has also approved two imaging agents for uses related to cancer. The new drugs were approved to treat certain types of stomach cancer, thyroid cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, melanoma, lung cancer, and breast cancer.