Overall Cancer Death Rates Still Declining

The most recent Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer (for the years 1975 to 2012) demonstrates that the combined death rates for all cancers have continued to decline. Between 2003 and 2012, overall cancer death rates for men and women combined decreased by 1.5 percent a year. The rates of new cancer diagnoses decreased for men and were stable for women during that same time frame.

The report cites a continued decrease in new cancer diagnoses among most racial and ethnic groups is due mainly to improvements in prevention and early detection. Better treatment options may also play a part in reduced death rates. Lower rates of lung cancer (the number one cause of cancer death in both sexes) may be due to increased efforts in tobacco awareness.

However, one type of cancer is showing an increasing trend in both death rates and new diagnoses – liver cancer. Between 2008 and 2012, new diagnosis rates increased about 2.3 percent a year, while the death rate increased on average 2.8 percent a year for men and 3.4 percent a year for women. Hepatitis C and liver cancer death rates were the highest among patients born between 1945 and 1965.

Multiple factors can contribute to or increase your risk of developing liver cancer. Hepatitis C is a major factor and, for those born between 1945 and 1965, they have a six times increased risk of getting Hepatitis C compared to other adults. There isn’t a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis C, so the US Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends a one-time test for this population, and treatment if necessary. Hepatitis B is a common risk factor in Asian/Pacific Islander populations, but worldwide rates are decreasing due to widespread childhood vaccination. Other health factors include obesity, type 2 diabetes, and alcoholism.