More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder

Substantial Declines in Mortality for Most Cancers
Nov 15, 2021

Mortality from cancer has dropped substantially in the United States over the past five decades, according to a new analysis.

Researchers found that rates for all cancers combined declined by 27% overall between 1971 and 2019 and decreased significantly for 12 of the 15 top cancer sites analyzed.

The data revealed even greater mortality declines for certain cancers in particular years. For example, mortality from lung cancer was 44% lower in 2019 compared to its peak rate in 1993, whereas it was only 13% lower compared to morality rates in 1971.

"The cancer mortality rate has reduced considerably since 1971 overall and for most cancer sites because of improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment," lead author Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, American Cancer Society, Kennesaw, Georgia, and colleagues write.

Advances in surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, precision medicine, and combinations therapies over the past five decades have contributed to these significant declines in mortality, Jemal and colleagues explained. The researchers also credit the "expanded investment" in the National Cancer Institute's annual budget following the 1971 National Cancer Act, which increased the budget 25-fold from $227 million in 1971 to $6 billion in 2019.

The report, published online today in JAMA Oncology, analyzed mortality rates for all cancers as well as the top 15 sites using the National Center for Health Statistics.

The researchers found that, overall, deaths declined significantly for all cancers over the study period. Some of the biggest headway since 1971 occurred for stomach and cervical cancers — with 72% and 69% lower mortality rates, respectively — as well as colorectal cancer (56%), oral cavity and pharynx cancer (43%), and ovarian cancer (41%). Mortality rates of female breast cancer and prostate cancer also dropped considerably — both by 39%.


1 JAMA Oncology. Published online November 11, 2021. Research Letter
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