Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society released the latest figures on the state of the nation's battle against the world's most dreaded disease.
The good news is that cancer death rates are down across the board. The not-so-good news is that less educated Americans are dying prematurely in greater numbers.
Every year, the American Cancer Society compiles massive amounts of data from the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Association of Central Cancer Registries and the National Center for Health Statistics. These numbers form the basis for developing estimates and reporting new cases, deaths and survival rates.
Cancer Statistics 2011 is the name of the final report, and its consumer version is Cancer Facts & Figures 2011.
The report estimates that in 2011, the United States will see:
- 1,596,670 new cases of cancer
- 571,950 cancer-related deaths
These figures show:
- Incidence of cancer among men has stabilized
- These stable rates in men follow a 1.9 percent annual decline from 2001 to 2005
- New cases of cancer in women have been decreasing 0.6% each year since 1998
Decreasing death rates
In summarizing the new report, Otis Brawley, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the American Cancer Society, said in video remarks, "Something very important happened in 1991 and that is the risk of dying from cancer in America started going down. Indeed, an American today has a 17-18 percent lower risk of dying from cancer than an American in 1991."
The report drills down on these statistics:
- During the period between 1990 and 2007, the most recent year of mortality statistics, death rates declined by about 22 percent in men and 14 percent in women
- Deaths among both sexes in most racial/ethnic groups have been declining since 1998
- Mortality rates have remained the same for American Indians, Alaska Natives
- From 1991-2007, the biggest declines in death rates have been seen in African American (2.6 percent) and Hispanic (2.5 percent) men
- Lung cancer deaths among women have started to edge lower, after increasing annually since the 1930s
"An estimated 900,000 Americans didn't die from cancer between 1991 and 2007 because of cancer prevention and control and interventions," Dr. Brawley said. These measures include quitting smoking, better screenings and advancements in cancer treatments.
Gender and cancer
Men are diagnosed with more cancers than women. There are also more deaths among men than women.
- 822,300 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in men
- 774,370 women will be diagnosed with cancer
- 300,430 deaths will be reported among men with cancer
- 271,520 women it's estimated will die from cancer in 2011
Top 10 new cancers in men
The American Cancer Society estimates that men will be diagnosed with these cancers the most frequently:
- Prostate - 240,890 (29%)
- Lung - 115,060 (14%)
- Colorectal - 71,850 (9%)
- Urinary bladder - 52,020 (6%)
- Melanoma (skin) - 40,010 (5%)
- Kidney & renal pelvis - 37,120 (5%)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - 36,060 (4%)
- Oral cavity & pharynx - 27,710 (3%)
- Leukemia - 25,320 (3%)
- Pancreas - 22,050 (3%)
Top 10 cancer deaths in men
Interestingly, two of the most fatal cancers - liver and esophageal - are not the most common types of the disease seen in men. Here are cancers that cause the most deaths in men:
- Lung - 85,600 (28%)
- Prostate - 33,720 (11%)
- Colorectal - 25,250 (8%)
- Pancreas 19,360 (6%)
- Liver - 13,260 (4%)
- Leukemia - 12,740 (4%)
- Esophagus - 11,910 (4%)
- Urinary bladder - 10,670 (4%)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - 9,750 (3%)
- Kidney & renal pelvis - 8,270 (3%)
Top 10 new cancers in women
The most common form of cancer in women is, of course, breast cancer. Breast cancer will also be seen in an estimated 2,140 men. Here are the top cancers that will affect American women in 2011:
- Breast - 230,480 (30%)
- Lung - 106,070 (14%)
- Colorectal - 69,360 (9%)
- Uterine corpus - 46,470 (6%)
- Thyroid - 36,550 (5%)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - 30,300 (4%)
- Melanoma of the skin - 30,220 (4%)
- Kidney & renal pelvis - 23,800 (3%)
- Ovary - 21,990 (3%)
- Pancreas - 21,980 (3%)
Top 10 cancer deaths in women
As with their male counterparts, the leading causes of cancer deaths in women are not the most common forms of the disease they experience. Leukemia, liver and brain cancers cause a substantial number of deaths in women each year. Here's the list of the 10 most lethal forms of cancer in women:
- Lung & bronchus - 71,340 (26%)
- Breast - 39,520 (15%)
- Colorectal - 24,130 (9%)
- Pancreas - 18,300 (7%)
- Ovary - 15,460 (6%)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma - 9,570 (4%)
- Leukemia - 9,040 (3%)
- Uterine corpus - 8,120 (3%)
- Liver - 6,330 (2%)
- Brain & other nervous system - 5,670 (2%)
The report also includes the five-year survival rates of the most common cancers. For those diagnosed between 1999 and 2007, the highest overall survival rates seen for all stages of the disease were as follows:
Highest 5-year survival rates:
- Prostate - 99%
- Thyroid - 97%
- Testis - 93%
- Melanoma of the skin - 91%
- Breast (female) - 89%
- Uterine corpus - 83%
- Urinary bladder - 79%
- Uterine cervix - 70%
- Kidney - 69%
- Colorectal - 65%
Lowest 5-year survival rates:
- Pancreas - 6%
- Liver - 14%
- Lung - 16%
- Esophagus - 17%
- Stomach - 26%
- Ovary - 46%
- Oral cavity & pharynx - 61%
- Larynx - 61%
Racial and economic disparities
The report also devoted a section on an area of growing concern - racial and ethnic disparities.
One example typifies this trend. In both white and black men ages 25-64, deaths among the least educated were three times greater than those of the most educated in 2007.
"African Americans have the highest death rates of any racial or ethnic group in the United States," Dr. Brawley said. "Socioeconomic status of blacks is actually a much greater driver of the high death rate among blacks than is race in and of itself."
Some 60,000 cancer deaths could have been avoided in 2007 if all segments had the same death rates as the most educated whites, according to the report.
To address this trend, the American Cancer Society and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) the Society's nonprofit advocacy affiliate, has a goal of eliminating racial disparities by the year 2015. To this end, these organizations are partnering with other groups to fund research and find ways to improve access to cancer prevention, diagnostic and treatment care among minorities and other underserved groups.
More progress needed
So while progress has been and continues to be made in the fight against cancer, more needs to be done.
John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and ACS CAN says the progress, while gratifying, isn't enough. He says the organizations "refuse to be satisfied" and that a commitment has been made to whatever isnecessary to make sure the number of cancer deaths continue to drop and that steps focus on all means "to accelerate the decline."