Deaths caused by cancer continue to decline in the US

Henrietta Strickland
January 15, 2020

Melanoma experienced the steepest decline in cancer mortality due to immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab (Yervoy, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company) and vemurafenib (Zelboraf, Roche), approved by the FDA in 2011, according to the report. Reedy urged the president to continue to support the declines by increasing access to health care, ramping up funding for cancer research and enacting policies to lower smoking rates. The overall melanoma mortality rate dropped by 7% per year from 2013 to 2017 in patients aged 20 to 64 years.

As of 2017, the death rate for lung cancer dropped by 51 percent among men since its peak in 1990 and by 26 percent among women since its peak in 2002.

The American Cancer Society seeks volunteer drivers for their Road To Recovery program, which provides cancer patients free rides to treatment.

More people have died from lung cancer than breast, colorectal and prostate cancer combined.

However, local experts say it is largely due to a decline in lung cancer and previous screenings. Even more, the effort includes the contribution of enhanced lung cancer survival.

Editor's Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Pulmonology Advisor: Do we know which specific treatments can be attributed to some of the decline in lung cancer deaths? That compares with a mean 1.5% yearly decline over the last decade. Improved diagnosis, scanning, surgical techniques, use of radiation, video assisted thoracic surgery, etc., have been instrumental in early assessment and treatment of the cancer. Screening prevalence is approximately 14% according to the most recent data, which is for 2017, so it probably had little effect on the trends we reported in our study.

Rebecca Siegel, MPH: Absolutely.

"Every day, thousands of cancer patients need a ride to and from their treatments", says TJ Smith, Program Manager at the American Cancer Society. Overall cancer mortality rates dropped by an average of 1.5% per year between 2008 and 2017, translating to more than 2.9 million lives saved since 1991, when rates were highest. The demonstration of real improvement in lung cancer outcomes following years of stagnation could also be a catalyst for more positive attention.

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