Cancer death rates in the United States hit a record 2.4% decrease in 2018, marking a record for the second year in a row and contributing to a 31% drop since 1990, the American Cancer Society announced Tuesday.
The organization tied the progress — which translates to about 3.2 million fewer deaths — to less smoking and continuing advances in lung cancer treatment, comprising nearly 50% of the total drop in deaths from 2014 to 2018.
The overall cancer mortality rate among men and women in 2018 was 149 cases per 100,000 people.
“Improved treatment accelerated progress against lung cancer and drove a record drop in overall cancer mortality, despite slowing momentum for other common cancers,” reads a report published Tuesday in the journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
Cancer ranks second in the country’s leading causes of death after heart disease, though it still poses the largest threat among Hispanic, Asian American, and Alaska Native people, per the report.
Also, the American Cancer Society projected 608,570 cancer deaths in 2021, with nearly 1.9 million new diagnoses, or 5,200 new cases daily. However, these estimates have not taken effects from the COVID-19 pandemic into account, such as interruptions to screenings and care.
“The impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses and outcomes at the population level will be unknown for several years because of the time necessary for data collection, compilation, quality control, and dissemination,” Rebecca Siegel, lead author, said in a statement. “We anticipate that disruptions in access to cancer care in 2020 will lead to downstream increases in advanced-stage diagnoses that may impede progress in reducing cancer mortality rates in the years to come.”
Dr. William Cance, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, voiced concern over “persistent racial, socioeconomic and geographic disparities” for preventable cancers.
“There is a continued need for increased investment in equitable cancer control interventions and clinical research to create more advanced treatment options to help accelerate progress in the fight against cancer,” Cance said.
According to the report, “survival rates are lower for Black patients than for Whites for every cancer type except pancreas and kidney, for which they are the same.”
Of note, colorectal cancer surpassed leukemia in 2018 as one of the top causes of cancer fatalities among younger men aged 20 to 39.
In 2021, prostate cancer is projected to comprise the largest percentage of new diagnoses among men, at 26% (or about 248,000 cases). Among women, breast cancer is estimated to account for 30% of new diagnoses, with lung and colon cancers following next for both sexes at about 12% and 8%, respectively.