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Karmanos' Chief Cancer Surveillance Researcher Discusses Study on Decreased Cancer Mortality Rates

DETROIT, Aug. 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cancer deaths among people of all ages have declined steadily in the last 30 years because of better prevention measures, early detection efforts and more effective cancer treatments, according to one of Karmanos Cancer Institute's lead epidemiology researchers.


John J. Graff, Ph.D., director of the Epidemiology Research Core at Karmanos, chief of cancer surveillance research with Detroit's SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results) Registry, and assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine, commented that it's these three components that have promoted declining cancer mortality rates.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) released a study today that shows the number of people who have died from cancer has decreased steadily in the last three decades. All age groups have experienced declines, while the youngest age group has experienced the sharpest decline. The study was completed by Eric Kort, M.D., who completed the study while employed as a research scientist at the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Mich.

"The cases of cancer that are prevented most successfully are the smoking-related cancers," Dr. Graff said. "The areas where we have made our greatest outcomes in treatment are in breast cancer and childhood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma."

Dr. Graff noted that the combination of earlier detection, prevention and better treatments have decreased death rates most significantly in men with prostate, lung and colorectal cancers. For women, those three steps have most sharply decreased the rates of cancer deaths due to colorectal and breast cancer, while female lung cancer mortality rates have leveled off.

Dr. Graff anticipates seeing more decreases in deaths from smoking-related cancers with the newly-established Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which gives the FDA regulatory control of tobacco products production, sales and marketing.

"Lung cancer isn't the only smoking-related cancer," he said. "We'll see great prevention measures taken with this program."

Dr. Graff acknowledges that cancer will surpass heart disease as a cause of death in 2010, as presented by the World Health Organization, but that is because the rates of death due to heart disease have dropped so sharply in comparison to the drop in cancer mortality rates. The WHO statistic can be misleading, he said, considering that it studies proportional mortality, which is calculated in groups of 100 people.

Kort's new study examined the rates of cancer death by age and found that for people born since 1925, every age group has experienced a decline in cancer mortality. The youngest age groups have experienced almost 26 percent decline per decade, while the oldest group experienced an almost 7 percent decline per decade.

"Fewer people are dying of cardiovascular disease, but we're also seeing fewer people dying of cancer," Dr. Graff said. "We haven't won the battle on cancer, but we are certainly giving it the good fight."

Dr. Graff said that Karmanos Cancer Institute plays a key role in the continued decrease in cancer mortality rates, across all age ranges.

"We're a comprehensive cancer center and we contribute to that in our work in clinical trials and advancing the use of new therapeutics in cancer care," he said. "We're keeping people alive longer. We're decreasing mortality rates and we're increasing quality of life during the survivorship period."

Located in mid-town Detroit, MI, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute is one of 40 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Caring for nearly 6,000 new patients annually on a budget of $216 million, conducting more than 700 cancer-specific scientific investigation programs and clinical trials, the Karmanos Cancer Institute is among the nation's best cancer centers. Through the commitment of 1,000 staff, including 300 faculty members, and supported by thousands of volunteer and financial donors, the Institute strives to prevent, detect and eradicate all forms of cancer. For more information call 1-800-KARMANOS or go to

SOURCE Karmanos Cancer Institute
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