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U.S. Cancer Deaths Decline

Cancer deaths in the United States have dropped for the second year in a row, according to the American Cancer Society. Elizabeth Ward, director of surveillance research for the group, says the numbers reflect welcome progress in the battle against cancer. "This is very notable, because each year for 70 years the number of cancer deaths had gone up."

Over the last two years the drop in the cancer death rates has outpaced the growth and aging of the U.S. population. Ward credits the shift to declines in smoking, successful education campaigns and more effective cancer screening programs. "For breast cancer these tests can detect the disease early, when it is still highly treatable. For colorectal cancer, the screening can not only detect the disease early, but it can actually prevent it through the removal of precursor lesions called polyps in the colon." But Ward adds that only half those who should get screened for colorectal cancer actually do. Still Ward is optimistic that cancer deaths can drop even further, but she fears that possible cuts in federal cancer research could slow such progress.

Cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. In 2007, 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and 560,000 will die from the disease.

The new data appears in the latest issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, published bimonthly by the American Cancer Society.