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An American Cancer Society report released Thursday shows continued declines in cancer deaths, but health experts say more could be done about cancer prevention.
The organization’s annual cancer statistics project that more than 1.95 million people will be diagnosed with cancer and nearly 610,000 will die of cancer in 2023, an increase over 2022 projections.
Despite the slight increase, the ACS says the numbers represent a continued decline in cancer deaths: Death rates fell 1.5% between 2019 and 2020, and overall cancer mortality has decreased 33% since 1991, an estimated 3.8 million lives saved by cancer.
“The report as a whole shows us that we’re doing a great job finding the cancer and treating it,” said Dr. Samuel Haywood, a Cleveland Clinic urologist who is not affiliated with the report.
Among the main findings: Lung and colorectal cancers cause the most deaths, prostate cancer is rising among men, and rates of cervical cancer have seen a “staggering” drop among young women.
There is still a long way to go, health experts add. Here’s a look at the state of cancer in 2023.
Cancer Statistics: Key Findings
American Cancer Society researchers analyzed cancer incidence and mortality rates from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database and the US Cancer Statistics database of the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After analyzing the data, they found:
- Cancer accounted for 18% of the 3.3 million deaths recorded in 2020, the latest year available, and is the second leading cause of death after heart disease.
- The 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined has increased from 49% for diagnoses in the mid-1970s to 68% for diagnoses between 2012 and 2018.
- Survival is highest for thyroid (98%), prostate (97%), testicular (95%), and melanoma (94%) cancers.
- Survival is lowest for the pancreas (12%) and the liver and esophagus (21%).
Lung and colorectal cancers cause the most deaths
The American Cancer Society projects that more men and women will die from lung and colorectal cancer than any other type of cancer. in 2023.
Time Lung cancer death rates fell by 58% between 1990 and 2020 in men and by 36% between 2002 and 2020 in women. Researchers say that it remains the leading cause of cancer, mainly due to smoking:
- About 81% of the estimated 127,010 lung cancer deaths in 2023 will be directly caused by cigarette smoking, the report estimates.
- Another 3,560 lung cancer deaths will be caused by secondhand smoke.
Meanwhile, researchers estimate that 52,550 people will die of colorectal cancer in 2023.
While death rates have declined overall through 2020 (55% for men since 1980 and 61% for women since 1969), deaths among people under age 50 have increased by 1.2% per year between 2005 and 2020.
Experts say colon cancer is increasing among people under 40 for reasons that are not well understood. But still, the overall risk of colon cancer is small and decreasing, Dr. Gil Welch, a principal investigator at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told USA TODAY last year.
Worrying trend: Prostate cancer is on the rise
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States, and progress made since 2014 toward lowering rates has recently been reversed, according to the report.
- Prostate cancer increased 3% annually from 2014 to 2019.
- Health experts say the deaths may be due to diagnosis of advanced disease, which according to the report increased by 4% to 5% each year.
- Previously, prostate cancer had been reduced by about 40% between 2007 and 2014 due to early diagnosis through screening tests.
“These findings have been exacerbated by the pandemic, when men were not receiving regular medical care,” Haywood said. “I’m definitely seeing more men with more aggressive, advanced-stage cancer in our practice.”
Cervical cancer sees ‘staggering’ drop among young women
Meanwhile, researchers have highlighted a “staggering” drop in cervical cancer in young women since 2012.
- The report found a 65% reduction in cervical cancer rates in women ages 20 to 24 from 2012 to 2019.
- Rates continue to decline by about 2% per year in Black, Hispanic, and Asian American/Pacific Islander women age 50 and older.
Health experts attribute the progress to routine screening and the HPV vaccine. Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the single most important risk factor for cervical cancer, according to the ACS.
“It’s an extraordinary reduction in cervical cancer, which speaks to the impact of the HPV vaccine,” said Dr. Jolyn Taylor, an assistant professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center at Houston. “As long as women are able to access care and follow recommended guidelines, we expect to see a low overall incidence of cervical cancer.”
Key points: evaluations and disparities
Health experts argue that more must be done to detect cancer early, especially as research shows cancer detection has tanked during the pandemic.
“What you might see is that if there are fewer screenings, there are likely to be fewer cancer diagnoses because you’re not looking for them,” said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society. “That’s really the concern, that we’ll see cancer rates go down initially… Cancer rates will then pick up, but people who do get cancer will have a disease that we can’t easily treat.”
The report also highlighted the need to address racial and ethnic disparities in cancer prevention and death, health experts say.
Prostate cancer in black men is 70% higher than in white men, for example, while breast cancer deaths among black women are 40% higher than white women.
“If you have scientific breakthroughs, it’s not going to make a difference across the board unless everyone has access to it,” said Dr. Larry Norton, senior vice president and medical director of the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial. Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
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Health and patient safety coverage in USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Health Care. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.
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