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Cancer Deaths Inch Down for Second Year


ATLANTA -- For the second year in a row, the absolute number of cancer deaths edged downward in the United States, the American Cancer Society said today.

ATLANTA, Jan. 17 -- For the second year in a row, the absolute number of cancer deaths edged downward in the United States, the American Cancer Society said today.

In 2004, the most recent year for which cancer mortality statistics have been refined, there were 553,888 cancer deaths in the U.S., or 3,014 fewer deaths than in 2003 (0.54%). In 2003 there were 369 fewer deaths than in 2002.

The ACS, which reported those findings in a study by Ahmedin Jemal, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Michael J. Thun, M.D., and colleagues, in the January-February CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, cautiously interpreted the mortality data as a trend.

Dr. Jemal said the major mortality declines in 2004 from 2003 were in colorectal cancer (1,110 men and 1,014 women), female breast (666), prostate (552), and male lung (333). Among the sites of mortality increases from cancer were liver and esophageal in men and pancreatic.

He attributed the decline in colorectal cancer mortality in part to the action by Medicare to pay for colonoscopies.

Lung cancer remained the most lethal of cancers, but lung cancer death rates for men have declined by about 1.9% per year from 1991 through 2003.

Among women, lung cancer death rates continued to climb, beginning in the mid-1960s, but since 2002 the rate appeared to plateau at just over 40 age-adjusted deaths per 100,000 women per year.

Cancer remained a major killer of African Americans who have a higher mortality rate than whites for most major cancer sites -- colorectal, male lung, female breast, and prostate -- and a higher incidence for all cancers except female breast. The cancer mortality rate for African-American men was 38% higher than same age white males and for African American women the cancer mortality rate is about 17% higher than for white women.

In general Hispanics have lower incidence rates for all cancers sites compared with whites, but for cancers associated with infection such as cervical cancer, liver cancer, and stomach cancer, Hispanics have higher incidence rates than whites.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, like Hispanics, have lower incidence rates of most cancers, but they have the highest incidence and death rates from liver and stomach cancers.

Other cancer data:

  • An estimated 1,444,920 new cancers cases are expected to be diagnosed in Americans this year.
  • More that 550,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer in 2007.
  • Cancer remained the second most common cause of death in the U.S., exceeded only by heart disease.
  • An estimated 178,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year and 40,910 breast cancer deaths are anticipated during the year.
  • The ACS predicted 218,890 new cases of prostate cancer this year and 27,050 prostate cancer deaths this year.
  • The number of expected new cases of colorectal cancer in 2007 is 112,340 and 52,180 deaths were predicted.
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