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June 19, 2019

Cancer death rate has dropped steadily for 25 years in U.S. — but survival rate for poor is less than rich counterparts

January 9, 2019
The overall cancer death rate in the U.S. has dropped continuously for 25 years — from 1991 to 2016 — by an impressive total of 27%. (iStock)

There’s some good news for cancer patients — but sadly, wealth may have an effect on how good.

The overall cancer death rate in the U.S. has dropped continuously for 25 years — from 1991 to 2016 — by an impressive total of 27%, according to an American Cancer Society study published Tuesday in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. But there’s a notable gap between survival rates for the wealthy and poor.


“Although the racial gap in cancer mortality is slowly narrowing, socioeconomic inequalities are widening, with the most notable gaps for the most preventable cancers,” the study states. “For example, compared with the most affluent counties, mortality rates in the poorest counties were 2-fold higher for cervical cancer and 40% higher for male lung and liver cancers during 2012-2016.

“Some states are home to both the wealthiest and the poorest counties, suggesting the opportunity for more equitable dissemination of effective cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies,” the study continues. “A broader application of existing cancer control knowledge with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups would undoubtedly accelerate progress against cancer.”

Overall, there were approximately 2,629,200 fewer cancer deaths than there would have been if death rates had remained at their peak.

“The decline in cancer mortality over the past 2 decades is primarily the result of steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment,” the study notes.

The American Cancer Society compiled data on cancer incidence, mortality and survival for the study using info from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program; the National Program of Cancer Registries; the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries; and the National Center for Health Statistics.

In 2019, more than 1.7 million new cancer cases and more than 600,000 cancer deaths are projected in the U.S.

“Cancer occurrence and outcomes vary considerably between racial and ethnic groups, largely because of inequalities in wealth that lead to differences in risk factor exposures and barriers to high-quality cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment,” the study notes. “Cancer incidence and mortality are generally highest among non-Hispanic blacks and lowest among Asian/Pacific Islanders.

“The overall cancer incidence rate in non-Hispanic black men during 2011 through 2015 was 84% higher than that in Asian/Pacific Islander men and 9% higher than that in non-Hispanic white men.”

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