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Cancer Death Rates Stay Stagnant
Date:4/22/2008

Factors that fueled recent declines have hit a plateau, report says

TUESDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer death rates seem to have stagnated, a new report shows, as the smoking prevention and mammography screening efforts that fueled recent declines appear to have leveled off.

"We've run into plateaus in terms of people smoking and getting necessary screening. The next big barrier is the obesity epidemic," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La.

Nevertheless, Brooks stressed, the progress already made is substantial. "When you step back and think about where we've come in this country, it's phenomenal," he said. "The report is a tremendous example of the work that's been done over the past 20 years in showing that the efforts to reduce smoking and increase screening have been tremendous in terms of decreasing death rates from cancer."

But the trends, detailed in the American Cancer Society's annual report, Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts and Figures 2008, do point to a need for more effort.

"If we see sustained declines in prevention and early detection efforts that could really have, down the road, an impact on [cancer deaths], that's why we're picking up the pace now and emphasizing the importance so we can correct this," said study co-author Vilma Cokkinides, strategic director in risk factor surveillance, department of epidemiology and surveillance at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta.

Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society reported that death rates in the United States had dropped by 18.4 percent in men and 10.5 percent in women since the early 1990s, when mortality rates first began to decline. This means a total of more than half a million deaths from cancer have been averted in those years.

Here are the report's main findings:

  • About 40 percent of the reducti
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