Some News to Be Thankful For: U.S. Cancer Rate Declines


From the L.A. Times:

For the first time since the government began compiling records, the rate of cancer has begun to decline, marking a tipping point in the fight against the second-leading cause of death among Americans.

Researchers already knew that the number of cancer deaths was declining as the result of better treatment, but the drop in incidence indicates that major progress is also being made in prevention.


Incidence rates for all cancers combined and for men and women combined dropped by 0.8% per year from 1999 through 2005, with the rates for men dropping at about three times the rate for women. The only ethnic groups for which rates did not decline were American Indians and Alaskan natives.

The overall death rate declined by an average of 1.8% per year over the same period.

Currently, about 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and an estimated 560,000 die from it.

The decline in both incidence and death rates was due in large part to declines in the five of the six most common cancers—lung, colorectal and prostate in men and breast and colorectal cancer in women. The sixth most common form, lung cancer in women, leveled off.

Our science writer Ron Bailey back in our June 2001 issue was explaining how environmentalist fears of an increasingly artificial world allegedly leading to increased cancer were off the mark, and how right he was.

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  1. Where are the doubters who cracked jokes about The Change and The Hope? This is but the first of many installments, to be sure.

  2. Perhaps the most powerful thing about incidence declining is that it refutes the inherently plausible argument that mortality rates are declining only because superior screening finds tiny cancers that would never have been fatal anyway.

    Admittedly, a lot of the drop is in lung cancer, and almost entirely due to personal choice and behavior. And of course some cancers are increasing, partially because people still die of something. But good news.

  3. You should imbed, “Just Can’t Quit: How far will smoking bans go?” in this article to be ironic.

  4. “Admittedly, a lot of the drop is in lung cancer, and almost entirely due to personal choice and behavior.”

    Personal choice? Are you kidding? More likely that utilitarian reasoning decreed that because smokers were likely to become future lung cancer patients, they need to be punished for their own good.

  5. egosumabbas,

    Angry much?

  6. Chewing Tobacco….Chewbacca…. Chewing Tobacco….Chewbacca

    Innocent name for a “cute” character or is George Lucas trying to hook our children on Tobacco.

    Get the Facts.

  7. Don’t you see? The Obama has already begun to heal the sick!

  8. Does this have anything to do with fewer people with quality medical insurance and thus fewer people getting screened at the doctor’s office?

  9. “Angry much?”

    My fiestiness is forged in the fires of freedom!

    Seriously, in real life I’m a pretty easy-going guy. The pseudotarian writers for Reason (with the exception of Radley Balko–I have a man-crush on him) really annoy me, and I call them out on it whenever I can.

  10. lymphoma, renal call ca, melanoma and others increased in incidence however. Cancer causes are multifactorial, and cant draw any conclusions on any environmental exposures.

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