The cancer death rates have been steadily declining in the US, with more people than ever living with a history of cancer, according to a new report from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
The report states that between 1991 and 2019, the age-adjusted death rate decreased by 32 percent, which translates into nearly 3.5 million cancer deaths avoided in the US. In addition, among children and adolescents with cancer, overall death rates have declined by more than half between 1970 and 2019.
More people than ever before are living longer lives after a cancer diagnosis. On January 1, 2022, the number of cancer survivors, defined as children and adults living with a history of cancer, exceeded 18 million. This number has increased sixfold since 1971.
Report authors say that the overall cancer rate is declining mainly due to “unprecedented progress” against the most common cancer types in the US, such as lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer.
Between August 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) approved eight new anticancer therapeutics, including the first drug to treat uveal melanoma and the first drug to treat cancer patients with Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome.
The agency also expanded ten previously approved anticancer therapeutics for treating new cancer types.
“Basic research discoveries have driven the remarkable advances that we’ve seen in cancer medicine in recent years,” said AACR President Lisa M. Coussens, PhD, FAACR in a statement. “Targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and other new therapeutic approaches being applied clinically all stem from fundamental discoveries in basic science. Investment in cancer science, as well as support for science education at all levels, is absolutely essential to drive the next wave of discoveries and accelerate progress.”
Many cancer cases are preventable
The report says that about 40 percent of cancer cases in the US are attributable to preventable causes, such as tobacco use. Even though cigarette smoking rates among adults have been declining since the 1970s, authors fear that the popularity of electronic cigarettes among US youth and young adults “threatens to reverse the significant progress against tobacco use.”
Other preventable causes of cancer are poor diet, lack of physical activity, alcohol consumption, exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning devices, and failure to prevent infections with cancer-associated pathogens.
Researchers note that the prevalence of obesity, another preventable cause of 15 types of cancer, continues to rise among US adults and children.
The report emphasizes that racial and ethnic minorities and other US populations shoulder a “disproportionately higher” burden of cancer. In addition, overturning Roe v. Wade might have detrimental effects on cancer patients because “reluctance or delay in starting cancer treatment because that treatment may lead to the termination of a pregnancy could lead to cancer progression.”
AACR. Cancer Progress Report 2022.