Clearer Picture of Cancer Leads to Drop in Rates
< Apr. 14, 2010 > -- Cancer is steadily being tamed, according to a recent assessment of cancer trends by group of national cancer organizations. Death rates and diagnosis rates from all cancers combined are declining significantly.
April is National Cancer Control Month, and the annual report from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries brings good news.
New diagnoses for all types of cancer combined decreased an average of nearly 1 percent each year between 1999 and 2006, and cancer deaths decreased 1.6 percent each year. This trend holds true both for men and women, and for most racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
Experts Think Progress to Continue
As researchers unravel the mystery of how different cancers begin and develop, doctors predict rates will continue dropping.
"We're beginning to understand that each cancer has an individual pathway to development," explains Alan G. Thorson, M.D., volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, clinical professor of surgery, and director of colon and rectal surgery at Creighton University in Omaha, NE. "We know now how to look at cancer, find its source, and go for that source, which makes all the difference in the world."
The report credits the decrease in cancer incidence and deaths primarily to advances in detecting and treating the major types of cancer in men and women.
Both the number of cases and deaths are declining for lung, prostate, and colorectal cancer in men, and for breast and colorectal cancer in women, the report states. Also, increases in the other major cancer for women, lung cancer, have tapered off. Rates have remained stable since 2003.
Screenings and Preventive Choices Are Important
Screening for colorectal cancer has decreased that disease, according to Thorson. Colonoscopy has made colorectal cancer completely preventable, he explains, because doctors can remove precancerous polyps from the colon during the procedure.
A number of factors account for the decrease in breast cancer, including the fact that fewer women are using hormone replacement medications. Breast cancer deaths are likely decreasing because mammograms detect tumors earlier, when they are easier to treat successfully.
But the choices people make in their everyday lives may be the most significant factor in beating cancer, according to Thorson. If people are eating right, exercising, and avoiding bad habits such as smoking, then cancer rates will continue to fall, he explains.
"We have the ability to significantly reduce cancer right now. Those are things we can do to prevent cancer, which is infinitely better than creating new ways to treat cancer once it's there," Thorson says. "People forget how much power we do have right now through simple lifestyle changes."
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Screenings Can Reduce Your Cancer Risk
The American Cancer Society (ACS) advises regular check-ups and cancer screening tests. These screening tests can help find either pre-cancerous tissues or cancers that are at an early stage, when they are most treatable.
Here are the main screening guidelines from the ACS:
Doctors may recommend that some people be screened earlier or more frequently because of their personal risk factors, personal history, or family history. Talk with your doctor about the cancer screening choices that are best for you.