March 31st, 2011
06:01 PM ET
For the first time in more than a decade, lung cancer death rates in women have dropped significantly according to a new report released Thursday by the National Cancer Institute.
Each year NCI–a division of the National Institutes of Health, The American Cancer Society, The North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases a report on the status of cancer in the United States.
"One of the most interesting things that we found was that during this latest time period of 2003-2007 lung cancer death rates in women decreased and this was the first time we've seen this decrease," said Betsy Kohler, executive director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. "It follows a long-term increase in lung cancer death rates for women during the period of 1975-2003. We saw this decline in lung cancer death rates in men beginning about 10 years ago."
While the report found a significant decrease in overall cancer death rates in both men and women since the early 1990s, death rates from liver cancer and melanoma in men, and liver and pancreatic cancers in women continue to rise.
Incidence rates–the rate of new cancers–in both men and women fell on average 1 percent a year, according to the report. The decrease in cancer cases in men was not was not as significant as in women because the number of prostate cancer cases has gone up.
"It is gratifying to see the continued steady decline in overall cancer incidence and death rates in the United States - the result of improved methods for preventing, detecting and treating several types of cancer," said Dr. Harold Varmus, NCI director. "But the full repertoire of numbers reported today also reflects the enormous complexity of cancer." Varmus add that as the population continues to age, more needs to be done to discover and deliver better ways to control all types of cancers.
Between 2003 and 2007, there was a decline in the cancer rates for five of the most common cancers found in men–lung, colorectal, oral, stomach and malignant brain tumors; but melanoma, kidney, pancreas and liver cancers increased. Women saw significant decreases in breast, lung, colorectal, uterus, cervix, bladder and oral cavity cancers, but the report showed increases in the incidence of melanoma, kidney and pancreas cancers.
White women had the highest new cancer rates among women. Although breast cancer was the most diagnosed cancer in women of any racial/ethnic group, the number of new cases declined for all women. Among men, Black men had the highest number of new cancer cases.
New diagnoses of childhood cancers–in children from birth to 19 years of age, also increased across the board. Pediatric brain cancer rates were lower than adults, but the tumors were more likely to be malignant.
For the first time, data are available on non-malignant brain tumors. That's because, Kohler says, on a national level cancer registries just started looking at non-malignant brain tumors in 2004. "This was also our first opportunity to look at non malignant brain tumors and the data from 2004 to 2007 show that non-malignant brain tumors occur about twice as often as malignant brain tumors."
Cancer organizations like the American Association for Cancer Research calls the progress remarkable. "The AACR is extremely pleased to learn of this remarkable progress against cancer, highlighted in the NCI report, released today," said Dr. Margaret Foti, chief executive officer of the American Association for Cancer Research. "The reduction in incidence and mortality rates is illustrative of the progress in cancer research and the momentum built through increased knowledge, scientific collaboration, and advances in technology. It is truly a pivotal and exciting time for cancer research."
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