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Last week, I discussed the disturbing trend of a decrease in cancer screening seen in this country.
We do have some good news, however, on the cancer front; overall cancer death rates in the United States have been steadily declining, according to latest data gathered from The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.
The report, which analyzed the number of deaths caused by cancer from 1975-2009, has shed light on the extent of the country’s success in its battle against cancer.
While the death rates associated with the most common cancer sites, such as lung, colon and rectum, female breast and prostate has decreased, the report revealed that during the past decade the number of deaths associated with cancers of the liver, pancreas, uterus, and skin has actually increased.
Overall, however, the news is good, and cancer death rates have been dropping since the early 1990s.
From 2000 to 2009, cancer deaths have dropped by around 1.8 percent a year among men, 1.4 percent among women, and 1.8 percent among children under the age of 14. This decrease indicates progress is indeed being made. However, as I stated last week, if the decrease in cancer screening continues, this trend will reverse itself, and we will begin to see the death rate from cancer increase again.
Among men, the number of deaths over the past decade has decreased for 10 of the most common cancers, including kidney, lung, prostate, colon, leukemia, myeloma, larynx, oral cavity and pharynx, stomach, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The only increase was found among those with cancers of the skin, the liver, and the pancreas.
Over the same period the number of deaths among women have decreased for 15 of the most common cancers, including lung, stomach, cervix, gallbladder, bladder, oral cavity and pharynx, brain, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, colon and rectum, breast, kidney and myeloma. An increase was found in the number of deaths associated with cancers of the uterus, liver and pancreas.
I have discussed the importance of staying away from tobacco products for many years, and one of the main reasons for the decrease in cancer deaths in recent years is because of the significant drop in the number of smokers.
The continuing drop in cancer death rates over the past two decades is encouraging. The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity, which I have also touched on in the column on many occasions.
As a society, we must face the overwhelming burden that obesity will be placing on our health care system and on the incidence of cancer head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control obesity. And we must maintain our vigorous approach toward screening, early detection and treatment.
As I stated last week, a previous study revealed that despite there being an increase in survival rate, the number of people in the U.S. who have gone to preventative screening has actually gone down in the last ten years. We have to reverse this trend.
Dr. C. Joseph Bennett is a board-certified radiation oncologist and a member of the Citrus County Unit of the American Cancer Society. Watch “Navigating Cancer” on WYKE TV at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and at 10 a.m. Thursdays. If you have any suggestions for topics, or have any questions, contact him at 522 N. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto, FL 34461, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.