In 1991, the cancer death rate was 215 per 100,000 people and in 2019 it dropped to 146 per 100,000 people.

Lung cancer, of which there are 230,000more cases each year, kills the most patients, 350 per day.

But people are being diagnosed sooner, and technological advancements have increased the survival rate by three years.

Breast cancer rates have actually increased by 0.5% a year since the mid-2000s, which the American Cancer Society report attributes to “more women having obesity, having fewer children, or having their first baby after age 30”. Increased presence of fat tissue can elevate levels of the hormone oestrogen, which has been linked to the cancer.

Improved treatments for lung cancer and early screening have led to a huge increase in life expectancy for lung cancer patients. There have also been encouraging increases in survival rates for breast cancer and colon and rectal cancer.

There’s also been a decrease in cervical cancer cases due to the introduction of the HPV — human papillomavirus virus — vaccinations.


Among women in their early 20s, there was a 65% drop in cervical cancer rates from 2012 through 2019, “which totally follows the time when HPV vaccines were put into use,” said Dr. William Dahut, the society’s chief scientific officer.

“There are other cancers that are HPV-related – whether that’s head and neck cancers or anal cancers – so there’s optimism this will have importance beyond this,” he said.

The lifetime probability of being diagnosed with any invasive cancer is estimated to be 40.9% for men and 39.1% for women in the US, according to the new report.

It’s good to know that at least some of the hundreds of billions of dollars we’ve spent on research and practical treatments have paid off.

“The biggest reason for the decline that started in 1991 was the prevalence of smoking in the United States started going down in 1965,” Dr. Otis Brawley, an oncology professor at Johns Hopkins University and a former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society told CNN.

“That’s the reason why we started having a decline in 1991, and that decline has continued because the prevalence of people smoking in the United States has continued to go down,” he said. “Now, in certain diseases, our ability to treat has improved, and there are some people who are not dying because of treatment.”

More men die of cancer than women, and more men avoided death by quitting smoking, the study found.

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