News / Health

US Rates Drop, But Cancer Remains Nation's Second Largest Killer

As population ages, half of men and one-third of women at risk

Seventy-five percent of cancers occur in adults 55 years or older.
Seventy-five percent of cancers occur in adults 55 years or older.


Rosanne Skirble

Despite advances in prevention, diagnosis and treatment, cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the United States. The disease - in all its forms - struck 1.5 million Americans last year, killing 560,000. These trends are reported in a special issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, entirely devoted to cancer research.

Progress on Cancer Front

The good news is that progress against cancer has been made on many fronts, says Susan Gapstur, vice president of Epidemiology at the American Cancer Society and co-author of a commentary in the journal. She says mortality rates in the United States peaked for men in 1990 and for women in 1991. Mortality rates have come down by about 21 percent and 12 percent in women.

About 40 percent of the decrease for men resulted from the decline in lung cancer death. Gapstur credits the reduction in cigarette smoking, sparked by education campaigns, smoke-free laws, taxes and social policies for that. She says great strides have also been made in early detection for a number of other cancers.


"Our best success has been in pap smear, for the detection of cervical changes before actually the occurrence of cancer," says Gapstur. "Also colorectal cancer screening [is] another very important tool that can detect changes in the colon prior to the incurrence of the cancer."

These tests, along with mammography for breast cancer, help detect cancers at very early stages and increase chances of survival.

Age and Risk

Seventy-five percent of cancers occur among adults 55 years or older. Gapstur notes that as the number of older Americans has increased, so has the lifetime risk of cancer, to one-in-every-two men and one-in-every-three women.

One article in the journal reports that while older adults are less likely to receive chemotherapy following colon surgery, they tolerate it better than younger patients and don't get as sick from the therapy. Journal editor Catherine

DeAngelis says another article describes the high success rate of tumor control for a new form of radiation for inoperable lung cancer. "That's a preliminary communication, meaning we don't quite know the answer yet, but boy it looks like we are on to something big," says DeAngelis.

The targeted therapy controlled tumor growth for three years in 98 percent of the lung cancer patients.

War Continues

DeAngelis says while 11 million Americans alive today have either survived or are going through treatment, the war on cancer is far from over.

She says that's in part because the disease, in all its various biological forms, is so complicated. "There's a commonality to cancer as a disease entity, but the organ it attacks makes it quite different, and the way it presents and the way it acts and the way it needs to be treated. I think that's part of the frustration."

DeAngelis says the strategy going forward must be to fight the battle on many fronts, building on the lessons learned from research, detection and treatment.  Susan Gaspstur with the American Cancer society adds that to get the numbers down,"It is essential that we continue to advocate for access to preventation for all and dissemination of what we know about prevention."

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs