A midpoint assessment of the American Cancer Society challenge goal to halve the U.S. cancer mortality rates between the years 1990 and 2015


  • See related editorial on pages 000-000, this issue.



The American Cancer Society has challenged the U.S. to reduce cancer mortality rates 50% over the 25 years from 1990 to 2015. The current report is an analysis and commentary on progress toward that goal through 2002, the midpoint of the challenge period.


Cancer mortality rates were examined from 1990 through 2002, and projections to the Year 2015 were made. Cancer deaths that were prevented or deferred by the declining death rates were expressed as the difference between the observed and projected numbers of deaths and the numbers that would have been observed over that period had the 1990 death rates persisted.


Since 1990, cancer mortality rates have been declining in the U.S. by approximately 1% per year. Trends especially have been favorable for cancers of the breast, prostate, and colorectum and for lung cancer among men. Should this rate of decline continue over the coming decade, death rates from cancer will be approximately 23% lower in the Year 2015 than they were in 1990, and approximately 1.8 million deaths from cancer will have been prevented or deferred.


At this midpoint of the 25-year challenge period, it appears that fully reaching the goal will require substantial breakthroughs in cancer early detection and/or in cancer therapy. Between now and 2015, however, many more cancer deaths can be averted by concerted action to control tobacco and obesity, by redoubling efforts in mammography and colorectal screening, and by enacting policies to close gaps in access to cancer detection and treatment services. Cancer 2006. ©2006 American Cancer Society.