HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cancer Deaths Decline

The LA Times reports on a recent cancer study demonstrating a decline in deaths from different cancers. 

For the first time since the government began compiling records, the rate of cancer has begun to decline, marking a tipping point in the fight against the second-leading cause of death among Americans. 

Researchers already knew that the number of cancer deaths was declining as the result of better treatment, but the drop in incidence indicates that major progress is also being made in prevention. 

"The drop in incidence ... is something we have been waiting to see for a long time," said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. And "the continuing drop in mortality is evidence once again of real progress made against cancer, reflecting real gains in prevention, early detection and treatment."  But the declines may be temporary, said Dr. Robert Figlin of the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte. "Baby boomers are reaching the age at which they develop cancer ... so we should not be surprised if it changes direction again."   Researchers also fear that the economic meltdown may trigger a new increase in incidence as fewer people feel comfortable paying for screening tests and increased stress leads some people to resume smoking.

Incidence rates for all cancers combined and for men and women combined dropped by 0.8% per year from 1999 through 2005, with the rates for men dropping at about three times the rate for women. The only ethnic groups for which rates did not decline were American Indians and Alaskan natives.  The overall death rate declined by an average of 1.8% per year over the same period.

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