Cancer mortality has declined since initiation of the “war on cancer,” in 1971, an American Cancer Society study found.
American Cancer Society epidemiologist Ahmedin Jemal and colleagues used nationwide cancer mortality data for 1970-2006. They found for all cancers combined, death rates per 100,000 in men increased from 249.3 in 1970 to 279.8 in 1990, and then decreased to 221.1 in 2006, yielding a relative decline of 21 percent from 1990 — peak year — and a drop of 11 percent since 1970 — baseline year.
Similarly, the death rate from all cancers combined in women increased from 163.0 in 1970 to 175.3 in 1991, and then decreased to 153.7 in 2006, a relative decline of 12 percent and 6 percent from the 1991 and 1970 rates, respectively.
Some reports have cited limited improvement in death rates as evidence that the war on cancer, which was initiated in 1971, has failed. However, many of these analyses fail to account for the dominant and dramatic increase in cancer death rates due to tobacco-related cancers in the latter part of the 20th century, the study said.
“Contrary to the pessimistic news from the popular media, overall cancer death rates have decreased substantially in both men and women whether measured against baseline rates in 1970/71 when the National Cancer Act was signed by President Richard Nixon or when measured against the peak rates in 1990/91,” the researchers said.
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