(TMU) — The American Cancer Society (ACS) has recently reported the largest single-year drop in the cancer death rate in the United States since they began recording the statistic. It is difficult to point to any one particular cause for this decline, as it is likely a variety of different factors responsible for the change.
“This is unambiguously good news,” said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, senior investigator with the Center for Surgery and Public Health.
In the ACS’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 report, the organization noted that the death rate from cancer in the U.S. declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, which is the most significant drop ever recorded over a single year.
The authors of the report speculate that new therapies and early advancement in early detection have likely contributed to the lower death rates. The fact that smoking cigarettes has become less popular in recent years may also have something to do with the lower numbers. A 2016 study indicated that smoking tobacco is associated with nearly 30% of all cancer deaths in the U.S.
According to the data from ACS, the cancer death rate was on a steady rise until 1991 when it began falling, until the most recent numbers were recorded in 2017.
The ACS study that the report was based on, suggested that the 29% decline resulted in 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths over the past two decades.
William G. Cance, MD, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society pointed to new treatments like immunotherapy to illustrate how the number of options for cancer patients is expanding.
“The accelerated drops in lung cancer mortality as well as in melanoma that we’re seeing are likely due at least in part to advances in cancer treatment over the past decade, such as immunotherapy. They are a profound reminder of how rapidly this area of research is expanding, and now leading to real hope for cancer patients,” Cance said in a statement.
Cancer is still a very serious problem and we still have a long way to go in developing new and less invasive treatments, but these numbers show that we are at least headed in the right direction.