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Cancer survival rates improving

Death rates from cancer are on the decline for men, women and children, and for all major racial and ethnic groups, according to the most recent Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer. The report states that during 2010-2014, the most recent five-year period for which statistics are available, death rates decreased for 11 of the 16 most common types of cancer in men and for 13 of the 18 most common types of cancer in women. However, death rates increased for cancers of the liver, pancreas and brain in men and for liver and uterine cancers in women. Overall rates of new cancers decreased in men but remained stable in women during the 15-year period from 1999-2013.

The annual report began in 1975. This year’s report, which appears online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, includes a special section focused on five-year survival rates for different types of cancer. Overall, it showed significant increases in survival rates on a percentage basis for both early- and late-stage cancers diagnosed between 2006 and 2012.

Compared to cases diagnosed in 1975-1977, five-year survival for cancers diagnosed in 2006-2012 increased significantly for all but two types: cancer of the cervix and uterus. The largest increases in survival rates, measured at 25 percent or greater, were reported for prostate and kidney cancers along with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, myeloma and leukemia.

Cancers with the highest five-year survival rate were those of the prostate [99.3 percent], thyroid [98.3 percent], melanoma [93.2 percent] and female breast [90.8 percent]. The lowest five-year survival for cases diagnosed in 2006-2012 was for cancers of the pancreas [8.5 percent], liver [18.1 percent], lung [18.7 percent], esophagus [20.5 percent], stomach [31.1 percent] and brain [35 percent].

“The continued drops in overall cancer death rates in the United States are welcome news, reflecting improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment,” said Betsy A. Kohler, executive director of the NAACCR. “But this report also shows us that progress has been limited for several cancers, which should compel us to renew our commitment to efforts to discover new strategies for prevention, early detection and treatment, and to apply proven interventions broadly and equitably.”

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