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We know we are fighting a war. This is a very important war and we must win. No, I am not talking about the war in Afghanistan or Iraq.
I am talking about the war against cancer!
Many times, people feel we are losing this war and there is no hope. This is not true.
The overall death rate from cancer is declining in the United States. Data just released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows that overall cancer deaths have declined by 20 percent since their peak in 1991. The decreases are even greater in lung, colorectal, breast and prostate cancers.
In its annual statistical review of cancer incidence and mortality, ACS estimated more than 1 million Americans were saved from cancer deaths since 1991 — the difference between the actual cancer mortality and a projection of continued increases in cancer deaths at the 1975-91 average.
Of course, we have not won this war; this is just a beginning. This war requires long- term commitment.
The ACS researchers also estimated the U.S. would see 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed in 2013 and almost 580,000 cancer deaths. This is the second time in a few weeks that a major report has highlighted falling cancer mortality rates in the United States.
Earlier this month, the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer reported that cancer deaths continue to fall.
At the time, Dr. Seffrin noted “the continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past 2 decades is reason to cheer,” although he and others emphasized there is still much work to be done.
That report highlighted the growing incidence of cancers related to human papillomavirus (HPV) and the potential for prevention with HPV vaccines. I have written about this vaccine and cancers due to HPV in past.
Starting in 1990, lung cancer death rates in men dropped about 30 percent, from 91 per 100,000 to 62 in 2009.
Deaths from prostate cancer per 100,000, which had also peaked in the early 1990s, also plummeted — from 40 to 22.
The largest decrease in cancer death rates for women has been for breast cancer, down 33 percent since 1990.
Decreases in death rates were seen for most other cancer types. The major exception is liver cancer in men, for which mortality has been edging upward since 1980. Researchers also found that five-year survival rates have been trending upward, even for notoriously poor-prognosis cancers such as lung, pancreatic and esophageal malignancies.
This is a lot of statistics, but the underlying theme is we are winning the war on cancer. With new research in genetics and other biochemical advances, I think the pace of this victory will be even faster in the future.
Dr. Sunil Gandhi is a hematologist and oncologist. He is volunteer medical adviser of the Citrus Unit of American Cancer Society. Write to 521 N. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto, FL 34461, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 352-746-0707.