Cancer is often associated with both emotional and financial strain for those diagnosed with it and for their families. However, the overall cancer death rates in the United States have been seeing a downward trend, but racial gaps still do exist, according to a new report.
Between 2010 and 2014, death rates fell for 11 of the 16 most common cancers in men, including lung, colon, and prostate cancers. The death rate also fell for 13 of the 16 most common cancers in women as well, which includes lung and colon as well as breast cancer. However, death rates for cancers of the liver, pancreas, and brain in men and liver and uterus cancers in women saw a rise in death rates. These death rates were not equal between all Americans.
“While this report found that five-year survival for most types of cancer improved among both blacks and whites over the past several decades, racial disparities for many common cancers have persisted, and they may have increased for prostate cancer and female breast cancer,” said Dr. Lynne Penberthy, associate director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Research Program.
Researchers aren’t entirely sure what is causing this discrepancy, stating that a lot of work still needs to be done to understand these differences. They speculated that differences in kinds of treatments implemented and their timing are likely to play a role.
An alternative report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that tracked data from 1975 through 2014 found that survival improved over time for almost all cancers at every stage of diagnosis, however, for some specific types of cancers and cancers diagnosed at an advanced stage, the survival rate remains very low.
Typically, the prognosis of a life-threatening cancer is given in survival years, e.g., a five-year survival rate. Between the mid-1970s and 2012, the five-year survival rate rose dramatically for all cancers except for cervical and uterine. The largest increase seen for the rate of survival was in prostate and kidney cancer as well as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma, and leukemia, which saw a 25 percent or more increase in survival rate.
The lowest survival rates (five-year survival) for cancers diagnosed between 2006 and 2013 were found to be: Pancreas (8.5 percent), liver (18.1 percent), lung (18.7 percent), esophagus (20.5 percent), stomach (31.1 percent), and brain (35 percent).
“The report also showed that tobacco-related cancers have low survival rates, underscoring the importance of steps to reduce tobacco use,” said Dr. Lisa Richardson, director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. She goes on to say “reducing the nation’s obesity epidemic is also important. Obesity is a risk factor for cancer, and at least 20 percent of adults nationwide are obese.”
The overall statistics have been seen positively by most oncologist and doctors in the field, finding it encouraging to see the immense drive for improving cancer survival and this upward trend. Experts hope we can learn more about the major risk factors for common cancers that affect the majority of Americans, with the statistics proving that they are on the right track, ensuring advances in treatment will continue.