Decreased Cancer Rates Add to Longevity

The new American Cancer Society study finds progress in reducing cancer death rates is evident whether measured against baseline rates in 1970 or in 1990.   

Researchers found for all cancers combined, death rates (per 100,000) in men increased from 249.3 in 1970 to 279.8 in 1990, and then decreased to 221.1 in 2006, yielding a relative decline of 21% from 1990 (peak year) and a drop of 11% since 1970 (baseline year). 

Similarly, the death rate from all-cancers combined in women increased from 163.0 in 1970 to 175.3 in 1991, and then decreased to 153.7 in 2006, a relative decline of 12% and 6% from the 1991 (peak year) and 1970 rates, respectively. 

The biggest gains for men are the declines in these cancer specific sites: stomach (-43%), prostate (-38.9%), colorectum (-33.4%), oral cavity & pharynax (-32.6%) and lung & bronchus (-25.5%).

The biggest gains for women are the declines in these cancer specific sites: stomach (-34%), oral cavity & pharynx (31.6%), cervix uteri (30.7%), colorectum (28.4%) and breast (28.3%). 

The researchers also calculated years of potential life lost (YPLL) due to cancer before age 75 for 2006 as additional measure for the impact of declining cancer death rates on population health. They compared this to the YPLL that would have been expected had the 1970 age-specific cancer death rates continued to apply in 2006. 

“When you live a longer life, the chances are even greater you will need some long-term care,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.

For persons under age 75, the decrease in cancer death rates during the 36 years time interval (1970-2006) resulted in about 2.0 million years of potential life gained.

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