Good News: Cancer rates decline in men and women.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported good news in its annual report to the nation on the status of cancer.  Newly diagnosed cancer rates in men declined 1.6 percent per year from 2001 to 2005. In women, they declined 0.6 percent per year from 1997 to 2005.  Ten out of 15 of the most common cancers went down.

Not all was good news, as you will see below, but it is a start.

Specifically, the cancers that declined in women were:

  • Breast
  • Colon/rectum
  • Uterus
  • Ovary
  • Cervix
  • Oral Cavity

New diagnosis of cancers went up in the following:

  • Lung
  • Thyroid
  • Pancreas
  • Brain/nervous system
  • Bladder/kidney
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Melanoma

For men, the following cancers declined:

  • Lung
  • Colon/rectum
  • Stomach
  • Oral cavity
  • Prostate

These cancers went up in men.

  • Liver
  • Kidney
  • Esophagus
  • Melanoma
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Myeloma

One of the reasons for the decline could be early screening and detection, such as colonoscopies in colon cancer.  The bad news is the decline could be partly due to a decrease in screening and not detecting the early cancers.  Fewer women are getting mammograms than they were a few years ago.

What is causing the increase in some cancers? We know excessive sunshine increases the risk for skin cancers and that the most deadly of these, melanomas, are being found in younger and younger adults.

And then there is the old nemesis, tobacco.  Smoking causes 80 percent of lung cancers and 30 percent of cancers overall. It increases cancer risk for bladder, oral cavity, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, cervix, kidney, lung, pancreas, stomach and types of leukemia.  This year’s annual report paid particular attention to regional smoking and its effects.

To no one’s surprise, the incidence of lung cancer was lowest in the states with the lowest rate of smoking.  Kentucky, with the most smoking, had three times more lung cancer than Utah, with the least smoking.  Men have been quitting or not starting to smoke more than women, which explains why women’s lung cancer rate is not falling overall.

The take-home message?  The current advice (stop smoking, periodic screening, and limit sun exposure) is helping and proven by these results.

Are you taking any steps to decrease your risk?

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7 Responses to “Good News: Cancer rates decline in men and women.”

  1. DR Says:

    I wonder how jurisdictions with “public smoking bans” fare in terms of lung cancer deaths?

    I wonder if info that detailed is available?

    DRs last blog post..Why Do We Get OLD?

  2. Blake Says:

    Good to see that some people are getting the message. Thanks for sharing the report.

    Blakes last blog post..A Fiber Reminder

  3. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Good question, Dr. J. It is mentioned in the discussion part of the report.
    They write California was the 1st (around year 2000) to implement state-wide smoking controls and has made the greatest progress in reducing tobacco use, 14.5 percent smoked in 1997 compared to 11.4 percent in 2006.
    The incidence of lung cancer in California declined the most of any state in women, and tied for 2nd in men.(table 5)


  4. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Your welcome Blake

  5. Sagan Says:

    Cancer runs in my family so I try to keep aware of what to do to prevent it- this is great information.

    At least bans and costs and such are (hopefully) causing people to stop or at least decrease their smoking habits!

  6. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Thanks Sagan. It pays to be vigilant.
    No matter what you think of taxes and bans, the evidence in this study points to the fact they are working, and not just in California.

  7. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    DR, please forgive me for calling you Dr. J

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