WEDNESDAY, Jan. 19 (HealthDayNews) -- Cancer has displaced heart disease as the leading
killer of Americans under the age of 85, according to the American Cancer Society''s
latest projections released Wednesday.
Even though the mortality rates are higher relative to heart disease, according to the
latest report, the mortality from many types of cancer is actually declining.
Cancer now accounts for about 23 percent of all deaths among Americans regardless of age,
the annual report found.
In addition, the report projects that there will be 1,372,910 new cases of cancer in the
United States this year, and 570,280 deaths.
Heart disease still remains the leading killer for all Americans regardless of age. In
2002, more than 690,000 people died from heart disease compared to more than 550,00 deaths
from all cancers, according to federal statistics.
For the cancer outlook, however, there is both encouraging and discouraging news.
Americans are surviving longer than ever after a diagnosis of cancer. Lung cancer rates
for men continue to decline, and have dropped for the first time for women. Rates of
colorectal cancer for men and women are down, and so are cervical cancer rates.
But rates of cancers linked to too much weight are increasing, reflecting the obesity
epidemic wracking America.
About one-third of new cancer cases this year will be due to tobacco use and one-third to
poor nutrition, physical inactivity or overweight and obesity.
The report also provides an update of recent cancer trends. From 1993 to 2001, overall
cancer death rates declined 1.5 percent per year for men; for women, the annual decline
was 0.8 percent from 1992 to 2001.
Overall, people are surviving longer after having had cancer. Since the late 1970s, the
five-year survival rate for men has grown from 43 percent to 64 percent and, for women
from 57 percent to 64 percent.
Lung cancer remains the leading cancer killer, accounting for 31 percent of cancer deaths
in men and 27 percent of deaths in women. In men, lung cancer is followed by prostate
cancer, then colorectal cancer as the top killers. For women, breast cancer ranks second
for mortality, followed by colorectal cancer.
"The order of the top three have not changed since the late 1980s when the number of
deaths from lung cancer overtook those of breast cancer in women and prostate overtook
colon and rectal cancer in men," Elizabeth Ward, director of surveillance research at
the American Cancer Society''s department of epidemiology and surveillance research, told
a news conference Wednesday.
For women, the most commonly diagnosed cancer is breast cancer, followed by lung and
bronchus cancers and then colorectal cancer. For men, the most commonly diagnosed cancers
are lung cancer, prostate and colorectal cancer, in that order.
From 1998 to 2001, lung cancer continued to decrease in men and, for the first time, also
"Decreasing incidence rates of lung cancer and several other cancers reflect
substantial progress against tobacco smoking, which began to decline in men in the
''70s," Ward said.
It's too early to tell whether the reported decline in women is actually a decline or
merely a stabilization, but it probably does signal that the lung cancer epidemic in women
has peaked, she added.
The incidences of colorectal cancer among men and women and cervical cancer have also
declined, probably as a result of stepped-up screening efforts, the report said.
Conversely, rates of prostate, breast and thyroid cancer and melanoma are on the rise.
Increases in thyroid cancer may be due to improvement in diagnoses or an increase in
exposure to medical radiation, such as X-rays. At the same time, breast cancer mortality
has declined, although it''s not clear if this is due to improved detection or improved
treatment, the report stated.
Obese men run a 50 percent greater risk of developing cancer overall, particularly cancer
of the liver, pancreas, stomach and esophagus. Obese women face a 70 percent greater
cancer risk, particularly cancer of the uterus, kidney, cervix and pancreas.
Cancers linked to infectious diseases, many of which are preventable, were also
highlighted in the report.
The cancer society estimated that worldwide, 17 percent of new cancers will be
attributable to infection, including 26 percent of cancers in economically developing
countries (1.5 million cases) and 7.2 percent (360,000 cases) in developed countries.
Liver cancer can be caused by the hepatitis B and C viruses; cervical cancer by human
papillomavirus; stomach cancer by Helicobacter pylori bacterium; and Kaposi''s Sarcoma and
lymphoma by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There are ways to prevent or screen for most
of these diseases: a vaccine for hepatitis B; good screening tests for cervical cancer;
and behavioral changes that can prevent contracting diseases, the report said.
Ward emphasized two challenges for the future.
"We need to encourage cessation among people who continue to smoke, and we need to
maintain efforts to decrease initiation of smoking among young people," she said.
"We also need to reverse the epidemic of overweight and obesity that''s overtaken our
society both in children and adults."
The report will be published in the January/February issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for
For more on cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.
??SOURCES: Jan. 19, 2005, news conference with Elizabeth Ward, Ph.D., director,
surveillance research, department of epidemiology and surveillance research, American
Cancer Society, Atlanta; Cancer Statistics, 2005, released Jan. 19, 2005, by the American
Last Updated: Jan-20-2005