Cancer mortality declined by 27% over past five decades

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Substantial progress has been made in reducing mortality from cancer, with rates for all cancers combined declining by 27% overall between 1971 and 2019, according to research published November 11 in JAMA Oncology.

Mortality rates decreased "significantly" for 12 of the 15 top cancer sites analyzed, according to a team led by Tyler Kratzer from the American Cancer Society. The researchers also found greater mortality declines for certain cancers in particular years, such as lung cancer being 44% lower in 2019 compared with its peak rate in 1993.

They said various factors contributed to this overall trend. These include advances in surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, precision medicine, and combination therapies, as well as expanded spending on the U.S. National Cancer Institute's annual budget following the 1971 National Cancer Act. This increased the budget 25-fold, from $227 million in 1971 to $6 billion in 2019, the team said.

However, the team also found mortality increases in a few categories, such as a 3% increase from pancreatic cancer and 8% increases for both esophageal and brain cancers. Mortality rates from cancer were also greater for 29% of U.S. counties included in the analysis. However, these were mostly found in the South, researchers added.

Kratzer et al called for improving equity through investment in social determinants of health and implementation research to further the national cancer-control agenda.

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