Good News: Overall U.S. Cancer Rate Drops Again

| by Reason Foundation

Every year the National Cancer Institute publishes data on cancer incidence and death rates in the U.S. The good news is that both continue to fall. News stories tend to focus on the success that modern biomedicine is having in curing cancer, but not getting cancer in the first place is even better. The new report in the Journal of National Cancer Institute can be downloaded here. To the results:

Trend analysis showed that overall cancer incidence rates for all racial and ethnic groups combined decreased by 0.8% per year during the most recent period, 2003–2007 (Table 1); a statistically significant decrease of 0.6% per year was noted in women, whereas a non-statistically significant decrease of 0.8% per year was noted in men that was influenced by a recent (2005–2007) non-statistically significant increase in prostate cancer incidence. Incidence for prostate and breast cancers, two of the most frequently diagnosed cancers, showed possible changing trends. Cancer of the prostate showed a non-statistically significant annual increase of 3.0% in 2005–2007, after a statistically significant decrease in 2001–2005. The trend analysis of breast cancer in women showed a decrease from 1999 until 2007. However, inspection of the annual breast cancer incidence rates during this period (data not shown) revealed that, after a sharp decrease in rates in 2002–2003, the lower rates subsequently remained stable.

With regard to the slowdown in the decrease in breast cancer incidence, it is perhaps because the effects of the big drop in post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy are now largely complete.

Looking further back, the article also reports that the average annual percentage change in cancer incidence has been falling at a rate of 0.8 percent for both sexes since 1998.

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Looking at the more recent trend, the report finds that cancer incidence declined a 1 percent per year between 2003 and 2007. Overall cancer death rates declined by 1.4 percent per year between 1998 and 2007. More recently, cancer death rates fell by 1.6 percent per year between 2003 and 2007.