New Report Finds Survival Rates Are Improving Every Year For Most of the Common Cancers in U.S.

Overall cancer death rates continue to decline in men and women for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation.

During 2001 to 2018, declines death rates for lung cancer and melanoma declined considerably, with a substantial increase in survival rates for metastatic melanoma.

The report, appearing in JNCI: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, covers the period before the COVID-19 pandemic, and reflects good news for 11 of the 19 most common cancers among men, and for 14 of the 20 most common cancers among women.

“The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum — from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” said Karen E. Knudsen, M.B.A., Ph.D., CEO of American Cancer Society, who celebrated the progress.

An analysis of long-term trends in cancer death rates in this year’s report also shows that death rates improved in both males and females from 2001 to 2018. In males, a decline of 1.8% per year in 2001-2015 improved to 2.3% annually during 2015-2018. In females, cancer rates were declining 1.4% per year from 2001-2015 and were dropping even more in 2015-2018 at a rate of 2.1%. The report found that overall cancer death rates also decreased in every racial and ethnic group during 2014-2018.

“The continued decline in cancer death rates should be gratifying to the cancer research community, as evidence that scientific advances over several decades are making a real difference in outcomes at the population level,” said Norman Sharpless, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The authors also reported that cancer death rates continued to decrease among children under 15 years and also in young adults 15-39 years, despite an increase in incidence rates from 2001 to 2017.

Another positive finding was found among incidence rates for liver cancer, which were previously increasing, but have stabilized among both men and women.

“I believe we could achieve even further improvements if we address obesity, which has the potential to overtake tobacco use to become the leading modifiable factor associated with cancer,” added Sharpless.

The annual report is a collaborative effort among the American Cancer Society (ACS); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).