By Kristina Dragovic, DO
The wide spreading reach of cancer in today’s society effects us all. To not have been personally impacted on some level, as most of us have dealt with cancer whether through a friend or a family member, is rare. This is why yearly, the American Cancer Society compiles data on trends of those newly diagnosed, those who succumb to their disease and those who survive. The most recent trend analysis was published in by Rebecca Siegel and her team in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians and there are some interesting trends noted. The overall death rate of cancer from 1991 to 2014 has dropped 25%; a steady decline of approximately 1.5% per year.
What could be attributing to this decrease? Per Siegel, it is likely to be improvements in screening and awareness that lead to early detection, in addition to less smokers. Per Geoffrey Kabat, Senior Epidemiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine- the trends in Lung Cancer are directly effected from the trends in smoking. The issues with treating Lung cancer, however, arise because patients usually present with symptoms only when their disease has progressed to its later stages. Thus, the five year survival rate for Lung Cancer is a mere 18%. Due to the use of the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screen, prostate cancer has dropped by almost half in the past couple of decades. Trends in Breast cancer deaths are also on a downtrend, most likely due to the combination of screening and most significantly improvement in treatment options.
Data for studies like these come from reliable sources, the National Cancer Institutes National Center for Health Statistics- and information since 2014 is readily available. It was identified that of all causes of cancer death among adults, the main killers are Lung, Colorectal, Prostate and Breast cancer; these four totaling to 46% of all cancer deaths. In childhood cancers, death rates have also declined since the 1970’s. However, the incidence (or newly identified cases) has increased 0.6% per year since then. The good news for childhood cancer is the survival rate has improved from 58% over the past 30 years.
Though there is a downtrend in these cancer deaths, this does not mean that new cases will not happen. It is estimated that over 1.6 million new cases will be diagnosed in 2017. The three main culprits effecting women will be breast, lung and colorectal; with approximately 60,000 case attributed to breast cancer. As Siegel states, it is important to identify improvements in treatment regimens and screening, and to maintain healthy lifestyles, avoiding smoking and preventing obesity. Though cancer has the capacity to effect us all, it is important to do our part to ward off those modifiable risk factors and work to be as healthy as we can.
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