The National Cancer Institute (NCI) recently released Cancer Progress Report 2001the first in a new series of reports designed to make scientific information on cancer more accessible and understandable. The new report describes and illustrates the nation’s progress in reducing the cancer burden across the full cancer continuum, from prevention through death.
"Overall, Cancer Progress Report 2001 paints a positive picture," said Barbara Rimer, director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS). "Highlighting important cancer control indicators, the report shows how the rates of both new cancers and cancer deaths are falling overall, due to factors such as the growing adoption of state-of-the-art cancer treatments, reduced cigarette smoking by adults, and increased screenings for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers. Both smoking and getting screened for cancer are related to behaviors over which individuals have control."
The report also illustrates where the nation is not making progress, said Ms. Rimer. For example, greater efforts are needed to reduce tobacco use, especially among young people, who recently appear to show a promising decline in cigarette smoking. In addition, the rising rates of some cancers, such as esophageal cancer and melanoma, must be addressed. Other areas that need attention include the increase in obesity, inadequate protection of the skin from sunlight, and the unexplained cancer-related health disparities between some subgroups in the US population.
Scientific Evidence of Progress
The report presents important evidence-based measures of progress that are, in most cases, products of long-term national data collection and analysis efforts by the NCI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal agencies, the American Cancer Society, professional groups, and cancer researchers. Robert Hiatt, MD, DCCPS deputy director and chair of NCI’s Cancer Progress Report working group said the measures were organized along the cancer continuum, in the areas of prevention (behavior and environmental), early detection, diagnosis, life after cancer, and end of life. Treatment measures were not included because few have been tracked on a national level. "The report describes ongoing research activities that will lead to evidence-based treatment measures, which will appear in future editions of the report," he said.
Where possible, the report compares the most recent estimates with the cancer-related targets of Healthy People 2010, a set of 10-year objectives for the nation sponsored by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
"Cancer Progress Report 2001 tells the nation where we are now and identifies research, policy, and practice gaps that can help us plan for the future," said Dr. Hiatt. "The public can use the report to better understand the nature of cancer and the results of strategies to fight it. Policymakers can review past efforts and plan future ones; and researchers, clinicians, and public health providers can focus on the gaps and opportunities identified to pave the way to future progress against cancer."