U.S. has biggest single-year drop in cancer rate, study shows

Abby Haglage

A new report from the American Cancer Society is offering good news for the millions of families who have been impacted by cancer: The U.S. saw the biggest single-year drop in cancer rates, from 2016 to 2017 (the latest year for which there is data). The 2.2 percent decline is part of an overall 29 percent decrease in cancer from 2005 to 2016 in the U.S., which amounts to 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths overall.

Experts say the landmark decrease is fueled by a continued drop in lung cancer, which has declined more than 50 percent in men (since 1990) and over 25 percent in women (since 2002). But the report also shows significant decreases in other areas — including a 40 percent decrease in breast cancer among women (since 1989), a 51 percent decrease in prostate cancer among men (since 1993) and a 53 percent overall decrease in colorectal cancer (since 1970).

The report cites declines in cigarette smoking, breakthrough treatments and early detection of cancer as major contributions to the reduced number of cases. In a statement shared with Yahoo Lifestyle, Mark Awad, clinical director for the Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said that the report should give Americans reason to hope.

“Certainly this is a really exciting time in oncology due to rapid developments taking place in many areas of cancer," said Awad. "Lung cancer remains the number one cause of cancer death both in men and women in the United States, as well as globally, and so any progress that we make in reducing lung cancer mortality will have an impact on overall cancer death rates."

The latest annual report from the American Cancer Society has shown a 2.2 percent decrease in cancer overall — the largest single-year decline ever. (Photo: Getty Images)
The latest annual report from the American Cancer Society has shown a 2.2 percent decrease in cancer overall — the largest single-year decline ever. (Photo: Getty Images)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking has declined more than 20 percent nationwide since 2005. However, as of 2016, nearly 40 million Americans still reported smoking almost daily. Awad stresses that the key factor continuing to keeping lung cancer cases on the decline is early detection.

"Less than 5 percent of patients in the U.S. actually get screened for lung cancer appropriately," Awad said. "That’s a huge shortfall of where we need to be, and we need to encourage patients and all providers that encounter patients with a history of tobacco use to consider screening, because we know that it saves lives.”

California-based medical company Auris Health has been in the process of revolutionizing the detection of lung cancer through a new robotic "bronchoscope" that can find hard-to-reach cancer nodules. But that's just one of many breakthroughs that may lead this number to continue its downward trajectory. Scientists have also made huge progress in treating various cancers using immunotherapy, a treatment that involves redirecting an individual’s own immune cells to kill tumors.

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