Over the past five years, the death rate for men declined by about 1.8 percent a year. Cancer deaths in women were down a bit less - 1.6 percent a year.
Much of the improvement came from lower death rates from lung cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
The biggest decline was in African-American and Latino men, though African-Americans still have a higher cancer death rate than whites.
Although there are overall improvements in these statistics, American Cancer Society epidemiologist Edgar Simard says the picture is not completely rosy.
"We know that for the past 50 years, at least, we've seen dramatic declines in the most common cancers in the U.S. But for some cancers, the incidence rates are actually increasing."
Those increases mainly came in the less-common cancers, such as pancreas and liver, plus some kinds of skin and esophageal cancers and those associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV).
In some cases, the cancer rate varied by gender and race or ethnic group. "And then we saw broad increases in cancer of the thyroid and kidney for men and women of almost every racial and ethnic group," Simard says.
It's not entirely clear why some cancer rates are on the rise, but he says there may be a link in some cases to increasing rates of obesity.