Cancer deaths have been on the decline in recent years. However, a new report from the American Cancer Society warns that this trend may not continue. The report, Cancer Screening and Early Detection Facts & Figures 2007, states that issues such as tobacco use, obesity, and lack of funding for cancer screening programs are still matters of great concern.
According to the American Cancer Society, the overall cancer death rate declined by 13.6 percent between 1991 and 2004. The number of cancer deaths decreased by over 3,000 from 2003 to 2004, the second year in a row that deaths decreased. However, warning signs strongly suggest that this trend may slow or stall altogether.
Decreases in the number of people who use tobacco have leveled off, a trend which won’t be helped by the fact that funding for smoking-cessation programs is no longer increasing. Obesity rates in adults doubled between 1976 and 2004. Federal funding of breast and cervical cancer screening for low-income women has been insufficient. Even when people have ready access to cancer screening, too few people take advantage of it.
“The historic second consecutive drop in U.S. total cancer deaths reported this year is a remarkable sign that we have the potential to turn back deaths from cancer,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, in a press release. Seffrin is the national chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “Much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use, improve diet, increase activity levels, and expand the use of established screening tests. But this report shows we may be losing momentum in some key areas that have been critical to our success.”
The report predicts that in 2007, there will be about 560,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. Of these, an estimated 168,000 deaths will be attributable to tobacco use. About one-third of the deaths are expected to result from poor diet, excess weight, and lack of exercise.
Experts want to see public health efforts strengthened, so that cancer death rates will continue to decline.
“We have been seeing a great deal of progress in terms of mortality rates and total deaths from cancer,” said Elizabeth Ward, director of surveillance research for the American Cancer Society. “A lot of that progress has come about from public health intervention, including declines in tobacco-related cancer and declines in colorectal cancer mortality…A number of public health early detection and prevention programs that the cancer society and other groups have advocated are really making a difference.”
American Cancer Society, article:
American Cancer Society, press release: