Cancer death rates continue to decline in the US, with more survivors than ever before


More people in the United States are surviving cancer than ever before, according to a new report from the American Association for Cancer Research.

Over the past three years, the number of cancer survivors – defined as people living with a cancer diagnosis – in the US has increased by more than 1 million. There were 18 million people living in the US in January, and that number is expected to rise to 26 million by 2040, the association said. The report says that only 3 million US They survived cancer in 1971.

Among all cancers, the five-year overall survival rate has increased from 49% in the mid-1970s to nearly 70% from 2011 to 2017, the most recent years for which data are available.

The overall age-adjusted cancer death rate continues to decline, with reductions between 1991 and 2019 preventing nearly 3.5 million deaths, the association said.

Declines in smoking and improvements in catching and treating cancer early are driving change, according to the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2022, released Wednesday.

Dr. Lisa Coussens, president of the association, said in a statement that part of the credit goes to an investment in research, both for treatments and for understanding the disease.

“Targeted therapies, immunotherapy and other new therapeutic approaches that are being applied clinically come from fundamental discoveries in basic science,” he said. “Investing in cancer science, as well as supporting science learning at all levels, is essential to fuel the next wave of discovery and accelerate progress.”

For example, between Aug. 1 and July 31, the US Food and Drug Administration approved eight cancer therapies, expanded the use of 10 previously approved drugs to treat new types of cancer and approved two diagnostic imaging agents, Coussens said Wednesday at a news conference.

Increasing funding for cancer research is the cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.

Biden, who lost a son to brain cancer, said this month his goal is to cut cancer death rates in the United States by at least half in the next 25 years.

“Cancer does not distinguish between red and blue. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Fighting cancer is something we can do together,” said Biden, who initially spearheaded the initiative as Obama’s vice president.

The new report urges Congress to fully fund and support Biden’s goal to “end cancer as we know it.”

“The renewed Cancer Moonshot will provide an important framework for improving cancer prevention strategies; increasing cancer screenings and early detection; reducing cancer disparities; and drive new cures for cancer patients,” the report says, adding that “the actions will transform cancer care, increase survival and bring life-saving cures to millions of people affected by cancer.”

Although nearly 3.5 million cancer deaths were prevented between 1991 and 2019, more than 600,000 people are expected to die in the US this year, according to the association.

“In the United States alone, the number of new cancer cases diagnosed each year is expected to reach nearly 2.3 million by 2040,” the report says.

About 40 percent of cancer cases in the U.S. are attributable to preventable risk factors, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating a poor diet, not getting enough exercise and being obese, according to the report.

But there are also ongoing challenges, such as health disparities affecting racial and ethnic minorities and barriers to health care, such as limited health insurance and living in rural areas.

In a taped statement at the press conference, US Representative Nikema Williams said she learned after her mother died of cancer that “health care in America is still not a human right.”

“We have two health care systems in this country: one for people who can afford preventive services and quality treatment, and one for everyone else,” said Williams, a Democrat from Georgia.

Roe v. Wade’s reversal is also expected to affect cancer care, limiting health care options for pregnant women with cancer, the report said.

“Roe v. which ends the constitutional right to abortion. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Wade, there is uncertainty about how a certain cancer treatment can lead to pregnancy termination. This uncertainty may prevent some doctors from prescribing a drug or providing other health care services in a timely manner because of the potential legal consequences for both the doctor and the mother,” according to the report.

The Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on cancer in the US, with nearly 10 million breast, colorectal and prostate cancer screenings missed in 2020.

The report offers recommendations to sustain progress and regain momentum.

“Making progress to end cancer means more birthdays, more Christmases, more graduations and more everyday moments for families everywhere,” Williams said.