Cancer deaths on the decline in U.S.
The U.S. cancer death rate plummeted by 27 percent from 1991 to 2016—a decline that amounts to as many as 2.6 million lives saved. That’s the encouraging conclusion of a new report by the American Cancer Society, which examined data from sources including the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Program of Cancer Registries. Researchers noted that the cancer death rate climbed steadily for most of the 20th century, largely because of men dying from lung cancer. But after peaking in 1991, the rate has dropped 1.5 percent a year. The drop-off is mostly due to anti-smoking campaigns and advances in detection and treatment of cancers. It’s not all good news, though. The report estimates 1.8 million new cancer cases this year and more than 600,000 deaths. Prostate cancer deaths are no longer falling, and obesity-related cancer deaths are rising—a trend researchers worry could signal larger problems ahead. “We are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding the influence of the obesity epidemic on cancer rates,” lead author Rebecca Siegel tells The Wall Street Journal. Another cause for concern is that among adults under age 55 the incidence of colorectal cancer has increased almost 2 percent a year since the mid-1990s. Some scientists think obesity is to blame, but others suspect “something else is going on,” says Siegel. “Everyone is scrambling to try to figure it out.”