Cancer Deaths Have Declined by 26 Percent in Recent Years


The latest data from the American Cancer Society shows that since 1991, cancer deaths have declined by 26 percent. The decline represents almost 2.4 million lives saved from this disease. Although lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, mortality rates have declined by 45 percent in men between 1990 and 2015 and by 19 percent in women between 2002 and 2015.

According to ACS experts, the downward trend in death rates is due to several factors:

  • A reduction in smoking is one of the reasons behind the decline. It results from public health campaigns that warn of the dangers of smoking, as well as tobacco taxes that discourage many from smoking.
  • Preventive strategies including blood tests for prostate cancer, mammograms for breast cancer and colonoscopy for colon cancer, all contribute to the reduced death rates.
  • Advancement in treatment methods has played a huge role in bringing cancer diagnoses down and reduced deaths from this disease.

Recent studies have questioned whether the two major screening techniques are effective: the mammogram for breast cancer detection and the blood-based prostate specific antigen test used to test prostate cancer.

Studies were unable to show that these two screening tests were attributed to reduced deaths from breast and prostate cancers. Besides, they led to increased false positive results, which require more testing that can risk complications and anxiety for women.

The data caused the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to revise recommendations on PSA and mammography testing. On mammography, the task force advises women to start breast cancer screening at the age of 50 rather than 40, and continue testing every other year. For PSA, in 2012, the task force recommended that men skip the test altogether if they didn’t have breast cancer risk factors. However, in 2017, the group suggested men should consult with doctors whether to get the PSA test.

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