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Report Finds Historic Drop in Total Number of Cancer Deaths

Report Finds Historic Drop in Total Number of Cancer Deaths

The American Cancer Society’s annual estimate of cancer deaths says 2006 will see a slight decline in the projected number of cancer deaths compared to estimates made for 2005. The projections are based on a decline in the actual number of cancer deaths reported by the National Center for Health Statistics for 2002 (557,271 deaths) and 2003 (556,902 deaths)--the first decline in the actual number of cancer deaths in over 70 years.

From 2002 to 2003, the number of recorded cancer deaths decreased by 778 in men, but increased by 409 in women, resulting in a net decrease of 369 total cancer deaths, the first such decrease since 1930, when nationwide data began to be compiled. The decrease in the number of Americans dying from cancer is a result of declining cancer death rates outpacing the impact of growth and aging of the population. Death rates adjust for the size and age of the population. The death rate from all cancers combined has decreased in the United States since 1991, but not until 2003 was the decrease large enough to outpace the growth and aging of the population and reduce the actual number of cancer deaths.

Notable Milestone

While it is unclear whether the decline in the total number of cancer deaths will continue, it marks a notable milestone in the battle against cancer. The estimates are included in the 55th edition of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures, which projects that in 2006, approximately 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and 565,000 will die of the disease.

“The drop in the actual number of cancer deaths in 2003 and in our own projections for 2006 mark a remarkable turn in our decades-long fight to eliminate cancer as a major health threat,” said John R. Seffrin, PHD, American Cancer Society chief executive officer. “For years, we’ve proudly pointed to dropping cancer death rates even as a growing and aging population meant more actual deaths. Now, for the first time, the advances we’ve made in prevention, early detection, and treatment are outpacing even the population factors that in some ways obscured that success.”

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