National Cancer Institute  U.S. National Institutes of Health

Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2009/2010 Update

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Early Detection
Life After Cancer
End of Life
> Mortality
Person-Years of Life Lost

(2007 data now available)
End of Life

After several decades of steady increases, the U.S. cancer death rate stabilized from 1990 to 1992 and has significantly declined from 1992 to 2007.

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Measuring Cancer Deaths

In 2007, cancers of the female breast, prostate, lung, and colon/rectum accounted for more than half of all cancer deaths in the United States. Lung cancer alone claimed one-fourth of the lives lost to cancer. According to American Cancer Society projections, in 2010 there were 569,490 cancer deaths overall, including 157,300 deaths from lung cancer; 51,370 from cancers of the colon/rectum; 39,840 from female breast cancer; 36,800 deaths from cancer of the pancreas and 32,050 from prostate cancer. Cancer mortality is usually measured as the annual number of deaths from cancer for every 100,000 people, adjusted to a standard population.

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The number of cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year, age-adjusted to a U.S. 2000 standard population.

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Period – 1975–2007

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All sites combined: Death rates among both sexes combined increased through 1992 and then fell from 1992 through 2007. Among men, death rates increased through 1990, were stable from 1990 to 1993, and fell thereafter. Among women, death rates were stable from 1975 to 1979, increased from 1979 to 1987, were stable from 1987 to 1998 and fell from 1998 to 2007.

Colorectal cancer: Death rates among women fell from 1975 to 2007. Among men, rates fell from 1984 to 2007.

Female breast cancer: After rising from 1975 to 1990, death rates have steadily fallen.

Lung cancer: Death rates among men rose from 1975 to 1991 and fell from 1991 to 2007. Death rates among women rose from 1975 to 2002 and fell from 2002 to 2007.

Prostate cancer: After increasing from 1975 to 1991, prostate cancer death rates fell from 1994 to 2007.

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Most Recent Estimates

In 2007, the death rate for all cancers was 178.15 cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year.

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Healthy People 2010 Target

Reduce the overall cancer death rate to 158.6 cancer deaths per 100,000 people per year by 2010.

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Groups at High Risk for Cancer Deaths

Blacks experience the highest cancer death rates, followed by whites, who also have cancer death rates that exceed the Healthy People 2010 objective of 158.6 deaths or less per 100,000 people per year. In 2007, cancer death rates among Asian and Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and persons of Hispanic ethnicity were lower than the Healthy People 2010 objective.

Studies have shown that persons self-reported as American Indian, Asian, or Hispanic on census and survey records may sometimes be reported as white or non-Hispanic on the death certificate, resulting in an underestimation of deaths and death rates for these groups.

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Cancer Sites with Increasing Mortality Trends

Mortality rates are currently increasing for only a few cancer sites. These sites include liver and intrahepatic bile duct, pancreas—and recently—corpus and unspecified uterus.

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Cancer Sites with Decreasing Mortality Trends

The mortality rates for some cancer sites that historically have had mortality rates of less than 10 per 100,000 people are decreasing. These decreases coincide with decreases in the more common causes of cancer death (Figure EMO2) (mortality rates for all sites combined, as well as mortality rates for the five top sites: colorectal cancer, female breast cancer, male lung cancer, female lung cancer, and prostate cancer, are all decreasing). Figure EMO5 shows other cancers with lower incidence rates (2–10 per 100,000), including leukemia; non-Hodgkin lymphoma; stomach cancer; ovarian cancer; urinary bladder cancer; and brain and other nervous system cancers that also have decreasing incidence trends.

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Key Issues

Although overall death rates are on the decline, cancer deaths for some sites are increasing, such as liver and intrahepatic bile duct, pancreas, and corpus and unspecified uterus.

An ongoing challenge for the United States is to find new and better ways to reduce and eliminate disparities in cancer death rates among different populations of Americans.

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Additional Information on Mortality

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National Cancer InstituteDepartment of Health and Human ServicesNational Institutes of