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Cancer Mortality Rates Experience Steady Decline
Date:8/12/2009

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., Aug. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The number of cancer deaths has declined steadily in the last three decades. Although younger people have experienced the steepest declines, all age groups have shown some improvement, according to a recent report in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

"Our efforts against cancer, including prevention, early detection and better treatment, have resulted in profound gains, but these gains are often unappreciated by the public due to the way the data are usually reported," said Eric Kort, M.D., who completed the study while employed as a research scientist at Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Cancer mortality rates are usually reported as composite age-adjusted rates. These rates have been declining modestly since the 1990's. However, these statistics heavily emphasize the experience of the oldest Americans for whom mortality rates are the highest. As a result, trends emerging in younger Americans can be concealed.

As an alternative to age-adjustment, Kort examined cancer mortality rates stratified by age and found that for individuals born since 1925, every age group has experienced a decline in cancer mortality. The youngest age groups have experienced the steepest decline at 25.9 percent per decade, but even the oldest groups have experienced a 6.8 percent per decade decline.

The public often hears about incidence rates, which continue to rise across many cancer types, or mortality proportions, with the World Health Organization's assertion that death from cancer will surpass death from heart disease by 2010. Both these calculations are accurate, Kort said, but they ask the wrong question. In particular, the often-quoted WHO statistic can be misleading.

Richard Severson, Ph.D., a cancer epidemiologist and associate chair
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SOURCE Van Andel Institute
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