NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Cancer Rates Are Rising, New Statistics Show

October 16, 2002

Contrary to optimistic reports from the National Cancer Institute showing the incidence of several cancers leveling off, a new analysis by NCI reports that cancer "rates" are rising. [Editor's note: the incidence of cancer referred to here is the number of cases reported. Thus the new report does not mean that the actual number of cancers per se is rising, only that researchers believe previous reports of the number of cases were incomplete.]

Previous indications of a decline reflected significant delays in reporting cancer cases, researchers report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

  • Breast cancer rates in white women, which had been almost flat according to previously reported data, have actually been rising at 0.6 percent annually since 1987 according to reanalysis.
  • Lung cancer in women was also thought to be flat, but the reanalysis showed it has been rising at 1.2 percent a year.
  • Melanoma rates in white males were reportedly flat or even falling, but the new analysis shows them soaring at 4.1 percent annually since 1981.
  • Prostate cancer rates in white males, rather than falling since 1995, are actually 12 percent higher -- and 14 percent higher for black males.

Researchers have long suspected that late reporting affected the final cancer-rate statistic for a particular year. Studying data from 1981 to 1998, they analyzed reporting delays, and found that the initial reports accounted for only 88 percent to 97 percent of the actual cancer rates -- depending on the type of cancer.

Source: Sharon Begley, "New Statistics Show Increase In Cancer Rates," Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2002.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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