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Cancer Deaths Declining, Especially Among Young
Date:8/13/2009

Advances in treatment, prevention and detection behind progress, study finds

THURSDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Cancer death rates are declining, especially among younger people, new research shows.

And while cancer is poised to become the number one killer in the United States, topping heart disease, that is because deaths from heart disease have decreased faster than for cancer.

"Older Americans have only experienced decreased [cancer] mortality very recently, but younger Americans have been seeing benefits for a long time so, as a result, everyone born in the last 60 years has been reaping the benefits of efforts in prevention research and treatment research and early detection research," said Dr. Eric Kort, lead author of a study appearing in the Aug. 15 issue of Cancer Research.

Kort, a pediatrics resident at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., completed the study while a research scientist at the Van Andel Research Institute, also in Grand Rapids.

"This is pretty impressive. We have made enormous strides," said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La.

Statistics on cancer rates are often adjusted for age, which skews incidence and death figures up because the population is aging and more cancer deaths occur in this older population.

"If you just take the average cancer mortality rate, by and large, that's only looking at older Americans because that's where most of the mortality is," Kort explained. "It's analogous to saying we're going to see if a train is changing directions by watching the back of the caboose and, until we see the caboose move, we're not going to say we're seeing any change."

This approach has led to criticism of gains made in the "war against cancer," although many recent studies have had good news, including an American Cancer Society report from May which found an
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