Melanoma, Lung Cancer Death Has Declined in the U.S.

A new report found an overall decrease in mortality due to cancer across men and women and all racial/ethnic groups between 2001 and 2018.

The Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer is a collaborative effort from the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The findings were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Stable Cancer Incidence since 2013

The investigators assessed cancer incidence data from 2001 through 2017 and cancer mortality data from 2001 through 2018 compiled from national population-based cancer registries. Between 2013 and 2017, overall cancer incidence per 100,000 people was 487.4 among males and 422.4 among females. These rates were stable through 2017, with a slight increase among females (average annual percent change [AAPC], 0.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.1% to 0.2%).

Cancer mortality rates per 100,000 people during 2014 through 2018 were 185.5 among men and 133.5 among women. Mortality decreased for both men and women (AAPC, -2.2% vs. -1.7%, respectively). Mortality decreased in 11 of the 19 most common cancer among men. This drop was also seen in 14 of the 20 most common cancers in women. Men and women saw increases in mortality in five cancer types each.

Long-term trends in mortality rates showed an overall accelerated decline between since 2001. Men saw a 1.8% overall annual decline in mortality between 2001 to 2015 and a 2.3% annual decline from 2015 to 2018. Cancer mortality for women declined annually by 1.4% (2001–2015) and 2.1% (2015–2018). All racial and ethnic demographics showed a decrease in cancer mortality since 2014.

Cancer mortality decreased for children aged <15 years and young adults aged between 15 and 39 years, despite increased incidence in these age groups. Rates of cancer among children and young adults who are Native American or Alaska Native did not increase.

Decline in Lung and Skin Cancer Mortality

Lung cancer and melanoma mortality declined between 2014 and 2018. “The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum—from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” said Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, via press release. “While we celebrate the progress, we must remain committed to research, patient support, and advocacy to make even greater progress to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families.”

Mortality rates also declined for colorectal and female breast cancer, and mortality for prostate cancer levelled off during this period. Brain and nervous system cancer deaths increased during this time, as well as pancreatic cancer. For men, oral cavity and pharynx cancer-related mortality increased, and women saw increases in death due to liver and uterine cancer.

“The continued decline in cancer death rates should be gratifying to the cancer research community, as evidence that scientific advances over several decades are making a real difference in outcomes at the population level,” said Norman E. Sharpless, MD, Director of the National Cancer Institute. “I believe we could achieve even further improvements if we address obesity, which has the potential to overtake tobacco use to become the leading modifiable factor associated with cancer.”