A new report found cancer death rates have descended by 33% since 1991 in the United States. 

The report was confirmed in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, which also showed the most recent data analysis indicating that cancer death rates have reduced by 1.5% from 2019 to 2020.  

Karen Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said that a major factor in this progress has been taking action in early detection of the illness, and the increase of treatment over time. 

“New revelations for prevention, for early detection and for treatment have resulted in true, meaningful gains in many of the 200 diseases that we call cancer,” Knudsen said.

Researchers found 65% decrease in cervical cancer rates among young adult women in their 20's during a seven-year span from 2012 to 2019. Dr. William Dahut, American Cancer Society's chief scientific officer, says she credits the rise of HPV vaccine usage during that time period. 

“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.

However, it's not just the treatment and early detection that have contributed to the downward of cancer death rates, but also the prevalence of smokers in the country since the data started being collected in the early 90s. 

“The biggest reason for the decline that started in 1991 was the prevalence of smoking in the United States started going down in 1965,” said Dr. Otis Brawley, a former chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. "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. Now, in certain diseases, our ability to treat has improved, and there are some people who are not dying because of treatment.”

Although the number of cancer deaths has decreased since the 90s, American Cancer Society CEO Karen Knudse says prostate cancer is still a major issue in our country with almost 300,000 American men being expected to be diagnosed this year. 

“Unfortunately, prostate cancer remains the number one most frequently diagnosed malignancy amongst men in this country, with almost 290,000 men expected to be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year,” Knudsen said. “Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men in this country,” she said. “What we’re reporting is not only an increase in the incidence of prostate cancer across all demographics but a 5% year-over-year increase in diagnosis of men with more advanced disease. So we are not catching these cancers early when we have an opportunity to cure men of prostate cancer.”

The Biden Administration commented on this latest report with the following: 

“The report showing the U.S. has cut cancer deaths by one-third over the last 30 years is great progress, which we’ve achieved through driving smoking rates down, improving early detection, and delivering better treatments for many cancers. It means millions of American families have been spared the immeasurable loss of a loved one,” White House Cancer Moonshot Coordinator Dr. Danielle Carnival said in a statement on Thursday. “The report also underscores that there’s more work to do to save more lives. President Biden’s vision for ending cancer as we know it is building on the progress we’ve made with an all-hands-on-deck effort to develop new ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer – and ensure that the tools we have and those we develop along the way reach all Americans.”

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