NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 12, 2005

Overall, Americans' death rates from cancer have dropped 1.1 percent a year since 1993, a trend that continued in 2002, the year with the most recent figures available, according to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI).

Rates of new cases are holding steady for men. But a small and stubborn increase in female diagnoses continues at 0.3 percent a year since 1987, fueled mostly by steadily rising rates of breast and thyroid cancer, melanoma and lymphoma.

One concern is ensuring that patients receive care based on the latest expert guidelines. The report shows growing numbers of patients do, which is considered a significant reason why deaths are dropping. But there are gaps, including:

  • More breast cancer patients are getting just the tumor removed instead of the entire breast, but a significant number skip the follow-up radiation recommended to kill any leftover cancer cells.
  • Patients 65 or older are less likely to receive recommended chemotherapy after surgery for advanced colorectal cancer.
  • Only 34 percent of female Medicare beneficiaries had their ovarian cancer removed by a gynecologist oncologist, a specialist considered to have better outcomes than more general surgeons.
  • While there is a dispute over what is the most appropriate prostate cancer treatment, in general, black men receive less aggressive care than white men.

Surprisingly, another fairly rare malignancy is becoming more common: liver cancer. The report found annual increases of 3 percent among white men, 4.5 percent among black men, 3.7 percent among white women and 5 percent among Hispanic women.

It's not clear what's spurring the rise; one factor may be hepatitis infections, say researchers.

Source: Associated Press, "Cancer death rate falling, but liver malignancies climbing," Dallas Morning News, October 5, 2005; based upon: Brenda K. Edwards et al., "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2002, Featuring Population-Based Trends in Cancer Treatment," Journal of the National Cancer Institute, October 5, 2005.

For study:;97/19/1407.pdf


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