New cancer diagnosis rates decreased from 1999 to 2005 by 0.8% a year, according to a newly released report by the National Cancer Institute, the US Centers for Disease Control and the American Cancer Society. In addition, death rates from cancer dropped an average of 1.8% each year from 2002 to 2005. The decline is primarily due to lower death rates from prostate and lung cancer in men and breast cancer in women and colorectal cancer in both sexes. It is the first time new cancer rates have dropped since statistics have been tracked.
Careful statistical analysis by researchers showed the downward trend in new cancer diagnosis spanned several years. Experts believe aggressive cancer prevention and treatment efforts are starting to bear results. New cases of colon cancer fell by more than 2% annually. By 2005, half of all adults 50 and older were being screened for colon cancer, up from 27% in 1987.
New cases of lung cancer fell to the lowest level in more than 30 years and are attributed to the war on smoking finally paying off. The CDC reported the number of adults who smoke has dropped below 20%. "Lung cancer is the big one when it comes to cancer in the United States," said Dr. John Glaspy of UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
All types of cancer did not see such positive trends, however. New cases are up for myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma and cancers of the liver, kidney and esophagus. In certain areas, like the Midwest or South, where states have not passed anti-smoking laws, the incidence and mortality from lung cancer actually increased.
Death rates for pancreatic cancer in women, esophageal cancer in men and liver cancer for both sexes were elevated. Liver cancer is associated with Hepatitis C and the incidence of Hep C rose after the drug use in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Further research is needed for cancers whose incidence has increased, the report said. Some highly lethal cancers such as pancreatic and brain cancer show that there is still much work to be done. There were also disparities according to race, socioeconomic status and geographic location.
Dr. Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said, "The drop in incidence is something we have been waiting to see for a long time," And "the continuing drop in mortality is evidence once again of real progress made against cancer, reflecting real gains in prevention, early detection and treatment."
Currently, about 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and an estimated 560,000 die from it.
Scientists at the University of Liverpool will undertake a study to assess the feasibility of undertaking a UK-based screening trial for lung cancer. The study has been commissioned by the National institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme.
Lung cancer kills more people worldwide than any other malignancy accounting for around 1.4 million deaths each year, and around 38,000 individuals are diagnosed with the disease in the UK each year.
Lung Cancer Symptoms and Treatment
"The number of deaths from lung cancer has fallen in past years in the UK and this is likely to be due to a decline in tobacco smoking, and possibly greater public awareness. However, there is a large ex-smoking population, who remain at high risk of developing lung cancer," says lead researcher Professor John Field, director of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Research Programme, at the University of Liverpool.
"Screening to detect the disease before patients develop any symptoms is a method that urgently requires evaluation as surgical resection at an early stage of the disease remains the only realistic option for a cure."
The results of the feasibility study will be used to decide whether a pilot study and subsequently a full clinical trial should be commissioned. This would use computerised tomography (CT) to scan people at high-risk of developing lung cancer, and would look at both the benefits and the harms that could result from such a screening programme.
"If the results of the feasibility study are promising it will be important to undertake a randomised control trial to assess if CT scanning is the best way forward. Only then would evidence be available to show whether a National Lung cancer Screening Programme should be considered," says Professor Field.
"We are delighted that the HTA has decided to invest in this first stage, which will help inform whether it is feasible to conduct a full trial."