Cancer Death Rates Down but Wealth Gap Widening

New data shows that the cancer mortality rate in the US has been on a steady decline for the last 25 years.  Unfortunately, though, the same study also advises that the decline has not been the same, equally, for all populations. 

More specifically, the American Cancer Society report shows that the overall nationwide death rate from cancer fell continuously between 1991 and 2016 by approximately 27 percent.  

This breaks down to represent about 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected earlier if death rates had stayed at their peak rate, which was reported in 1991.

In a statement, lead study author and American Cancer Society strategic director of surveillance information, Rebecca Siegel comments, “The continued to decline in the cancer death rate over the past 25 years is really good news and was a little bit of a surprise, only because the other leading causes of death in the US are starting to flatten.”

As such, the researchers had been hopeful that these rates will flatten, but so far they have not. 

And this is all important, of course, because cancer is among the top three leading causes of death in the United States as of 2017. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the other two leading causes of death (in 2017) were heart disease and unintentional injuries/accidents.

In addition, this particular study indicates that cancer deaths appear to be on the rise throughout the rest of the world.  In a World Health Organization report, there were 18.1 million new cancer diagnoses worldwide in 2018, with roughly 9.6 million cancer deaths.  This puts cancer as the second global leading cause of death. 

What is most interesting, however, is that the data suggests a great disparity in cancer death rates between black and white patients. Siegel notes, “The racial gap in cancer mortality is continuing to narrow—so it was that the cancer death rate in blacks was 33 percent higher than in whites in the mid-1990s, and the current data now indicate it’s 14percent higher—so it’s still higher, but the gap is narrowing, which is really good.”

Siegel also comments that these disparities appear to be widening.  Obviously, wealth affords more access to better health care, and high-quality cancer prevention, detection, and treatment, of course.

The study has been published in CA:  A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

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