Cancer death rates achieved their largest one-year drop between 2016 and 2017, according to the latest data from the American Cancer Society, which published the findings in their journal.
In fact, death rates were down to their lowest level since the 1990s, the analysis found.
The drop is due to progress across the four leading types of cancers, including lung, colorectal, breast and prostate. Lung cancer has seen the biggest declines, with fewer people smoking and better healthcare availability. Declines in lung cancer accelerated from 3% annually from 2008 to 2013 to 5% in 2013 to 2017 among men, and from 2% to nearly 4% among women.
That lung cancer decline prompted the biggest single-year drop in cancer mortality, 2.2%, from 2016 to 2017.
However, the rate of decline for breast cancer and colorectal cancers slowed from 2008 to 2017, and even halted for prostate cancer. Lung cancer still caused more deaths than breast, prostate, colorectal and brain cancers combined in 2017.
From 1991 to 2017, cancer death rates have declined 29%, for an estimated 2.9 million fewer deaths that would have occurred if peak rates remained. The cancer death rate continually rose until 1991, when it began falling. That’s up from the 2.6 million fewer deaths reported in last year’s report.
Since the approval of new therapies for metastatic disease from the FDA, melanoma of the skin deaths dropped dramatically, including 7% annually from 2013 to 2017, compared to 1% annually from 2006 to 2010 for adults aged 50 to 64. In addition, annual declines of 5% and 6% among those aged 65 and older were reported.
Other cancers where death rate increases have slowed or halted include liver cancer.
In 2020, 606,520 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the U.S., with 1,806,590 new cancer cases.
The American Cancer Society collected the data through the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, the National Program of Cancer Registries, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.