Cancer mortality declines 20% since 1991


  • Carrie Printz

Illustration 1.

The overall US cancer death rate has declined by 20% in 2009 from its 1991 peak, which translates to approximately 1.2 million deaths avoided during that time, according to the ACS's annual Cancer Statistics report.1

The report “Cancer Facts & Figures 2013” and its companion article, “Cancer Statistics, 2013,” are published annually, and provide estimates of the number of new cancer cases and deaths expected in the current year. In addition, the report includes the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival based on information from the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Cancer death rates decreased from their peak of 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 173.1 per 100,000 in 2009, according to the report. The decline included decreases in lung, colon and rectum, breast, and prostate cancers. Colorectal, female breast, and male lung cancers declined more than 30% from their peak, whereas prostate cancers declined more than 40%.

Although the reductions in death rates are encouraging, the authors note that further declines could be generated by applying cancer control knowledge to the lowest socioeconomic populations and other underserved groups.

Among the report's additional findings were:

  • A total of 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 cancer deaths were projected to occur nationwide in 2013.

  • Cancers of the prostate, lung, bronchus, and colorectum will account for half of all newly diagnosed cancers.

  • Prostate cancer will account for 28% of cancers in men.

  • Breast cancer is expected to account for 29% of all new cancers in women.

  • Incidence rates are increasing in both men and women for melanoma and cancers of the liver, thyroid, and pancreas.

  • Cancer death rates decreased by 1.8% in males and 1.5% in females from 2005 to 2009. These rates have been consistent since 2001 in men and 2002 in women.

  • Between 1990-1991 and 2009, cancer death rates decreased by 24% in men, 16% in women, and 20% overall.

Each year, the report also includes a special section. This year, it focuses on pancreatic cancer, providing an update on its occurrence and treatment.