The decline in cancer death rates translates to more than 2.1 million deaths prevented if peak rates from 1991 had continued, according to a report published online Thursday by the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“From 1991 to 2014, the overall cancer death rate dropped 25 percent, translating to approximately 2,143,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak,” the report reads. “In 2017, 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 600,920 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States.”

Cancer remains the number two cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease. About 40% of U.S. men and 37% of women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.

Enhanced treatment protocols and intensified targeted therapies have driven the most dramatic improvements in the survival of patients with blood and lymph cancers, according to the report.

During the mid-1970s, patients with acute lymphocytic leukemia, for example, had a five-year survival rate of about 41%. For patients diagnosed between 2006 and 2012, these rates increased to 71%. For chronic myeloid leukemia, five-year survival rates increased from a dismal 22% in the mid-1970s to 66% during the same time period, and new treatment strategies allow most patients who are diagnosed before age 65 to achieve near-normal life expectancies.

Men have seen slightly greater decreases in cancer deaths compared to women — declines of 31% vs. 21% from 1991 to 2014. And despite having cancer death rates that remained 15% higher than that of caucasians in 2014, African Americans have narrowed a long-standing gap.

“The continuing drops in the cancer death rate are a powerful sign of the potential we have to reduce cancer’s deadly toll,” said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the ACS. “Continuing that success will require more clinical and basic research to improve early detection and treatment, as well as creative new strategies to increase healthy behaviors nationwide.”

Source: Los Angeles Times

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