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Top Charts 20-02: US cancer improvements

​In this regular column, Club Vita's longevity experts will help you visualize the often abstract world of longevity risk by introducing their own personal favorite charts.​


Has cancer mortality been improving in the US in recent years?


Yes. Results recently published by the American Cancer Society in Cancer statistics 2020 show that the rate of people dying from cancer has been reducing steadily in the US, with the latest year of data (2016-2017) showing the biggest recorded reduction in a single year.

The charts below show the US age standardized mortality rates for men and women broken down by different types of cancer. Improvements to colorectal, prostate and breast cancers are influencing the overall rates, but the biggest driver is the reduction in deaths due to lung cancer. Progress has been due to a combination of new treatments, early detection and behavioral changes – in particular from a reduction in smoking.

Source: Club Vita presentation of figures provided by the Cancer Statistics Center Death rates are per 100,000, age adjusted to the 2000 US standard population.

Key takeaways
  • Cancer mortality rates in the US have been steadily falling over the last 25 years, with the largest annual improvement on record seen in the latest year of data (2016 – 2017).
  • This has been largely driven by improvements in lung cancer rates.
  • With cancer the second highest cause of death in the US, understanding these trends will give us insight into overall longevity improvements.

Cancer is the second highest cause of death in the US and the highest for 45 - 84 year olds, so reduction in cancer mortality will have a large effect on overall mortality improvements. However, as the saying goes “you can only give up smoking once”. The key question is:

  • For how long will further improvements in treatments, early detection and behaviors be enough to keep up this level of improvement?
What do you think?

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