Every year at about this time, the American Cancer Society publishes the most recent data on cancer incidence and mortality rates. The good news is again that rumors of an increasing cancer epidemic are false. The latest study in the journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians reports:
During the most recent 5 years for which there are data (2006-2010), delay-adjusted cancer incidence rates declined slightly in men (by 0.6% per year) and were stable in women, while cancer death rates decreased by 1.8% per year in men and by 1.4% per year in women. The combined cancer death rate (deaths per 100,000 population) has been continuously declining for 2 decades, from a peak of 215.1 in 1991 to 171.8 in 2010. This 20% decline translates to the avoidance of approximately 1,340,400 cancer deaths (952,700 among men and 387,700 among women) during this time period.
On Sunday, the New York Times published a terrific article, "Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer." Short answer: Because everyone is living long enough to get it nowadays. A significant proportion of the explanation for why Americans are now living long enough to get cancer is because of the steep drop in cardiovascular mortality. See chart below:
As the Times article notes:
Surprisingly, only a small percentage of cancers have been traced to the thousands of synthetic chemicals that industry has added to the environment.
Surprisingly? I guess it is a surprise to most people given the relentless misinformation peddled by environmental activists with regard to the risks of exposures to trace amounts of synthetic chemicals. In any case, the Times correctly concludes:
Maybe someday some of us will live to be 200. But barring an elixir for immortality, a body will come to a point where it has outwitted every peril life has thrown at it. And for each added year, more mutations will have accumulated. If the heart holds out, then waiting at the end will be cancer.
Maybe. Advances in molecular medicine hold out the hope that the aging broken cellular mechanisms that give rise to cancer can be repaired.