NCI Releases Report on Nation’s Progress Against Cancer

February 1, 2002

BETHESDA, Maryland-The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Progress Report 2001-a living document that the Institute will update once or twice a year online and every few years in printed form-renders a mixed judgment about the nation’s success in reducing the burden of cancer.

BETHESDA, Maryland—The National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Progress Report 2001—a living document that the Institute will update once or twice a year online and every few years in printed form—renders a mixed judgment about the nation’s success in reducing the burden of cancer.

"This is a report that basically tells us how we are doing as a nation," said Robert A. Hiatt, MD, PhD, deputy director of NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) and chair of the committee that assembled the report. "The main message is a positive one. The nation is making good progress against cancer, but trends in some areas are going in the wrong direction."

On the plus side, the report said:

  • The rates of both new cancer cases and cancer deaths are falling overall.

  • Some prevention behaviors have shown improvement. Adult smoking is down dramatically since the 1960s, although rates fell only slightly in the 1990s. Consumption of alcohol and fat is headed down, while fruit and vegetable consumption is up.

  • The use of screening tests for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancers is increasing, although screening rates for colorectal cancer remain low.

In the minus column:

  • Some cancers are rising dramatically, such as cancer of the esophagus and melanoma. Lung cancer in women continues to rise but not as rapidly as before.

  • Youth smoking has been on the rise, although data show there may be a recent, promising decline.

  • People are doing less to protect themselves from the sun.

  • More people are overweight or obese, and physical activity is increasing only slightly.

  • Cancer treatment spending continues to rise along with total health care spending.

  • Unexplained cancer-related health disparities remain among population subgroups. Blacks and people with low socioeconomic status, for example, have the highest overall rates for both new cancers and deaths.

The data were gathered through a collaboration with other organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal health agencies, the American Cancer Society, professional groups, and cancer researchers.

The report tracks progress in prevention, early detection, diagnosis, life after cancer, and end of life, and where possible, compares the status of each with the goals of Healthy People 2010, a set of 10-year objectives established by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Using color-coded graphics, Cancer Progress 2001 shows which trends are rising and which are falling. For example, in the Highlights’ prevention section, the report notes a positive trend in smoking reduction among Americans ages 18 and older. The percentage of adults smoking cigarettes dropped to 24% in 1998 from 26% in 1992, with the target goal in 2010 set at 12%. Youth smoking showed a negative trend, rising from 28% in 1991 to 35% in 1999, with the 2010 goal set at 16%. More recent data, however, suggest a reversal of this trend.

"The Cancer Progress Report is an effort to publish, in one place, the most up-to-date information on the nation’s progress against cancer," Dr. Hiatt said at a National Cancer Advisory Board meeting in December 2001 when the report was released. "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."

A free printed copy of the new publication is available by calling 1-800-4-CANCER and asking for Cancer Progress Report 2001 (T905). The report is online at http://progressreport.cancer.gov.