Cancer Mortality Rate Continues to Drop as Socioeconomic Gap Widens

Kelly Davio
Published Online: Thursday, January 10th, 2019
The cancer mortality rate in the United States has declined for the 25th consecutive year, according to The American Cancer Society’s annual report on cancer rates and trends. The overall 27% drop in mortality rate translates into 2.6 million fewer deaths from cancer between the years 1991 and 2016.

The report, published this week in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, draws on mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics and population-based cancer incidence data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program. According to the report, the cancer death rate rose for most of the 20th century, driven in large part by lung cancer deaths associated with tobacco use. Since the peak of 215.1 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 1991, the cancer death rate has dropped steadily by approximately 1.5% per year.   

The declining cancer rate is due, in large part to reductions in smoking and to advancements in the early detection and treatment and cancers, according to the report. However, cancer remains a pressing health issue in the United States.

In 2016, 22% of all deaths were from cancer, making it the second-leading cause of death after heart disease. There has also been an uptick in death rates from 2012 to 2016 for cancers of the liver, pancreas, uterine corpus, brain, nervous system, soft tissue, and sites within the oral cavity and pharynx associated with human papilloma virus.

The report also indicated that the racial gap in US cancer mortality is narrowing—with the disparity in cancer deaths between black and white individuals declining from a peak of 33% in 1993 to 14% in 2016—but socioeconomic disparities are widening.

A version of this article was originally published by the American Journal of Managed Care. Visit to view the full article.

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