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U.S. Cancer Death Rates Have Dropped 20 Percent Since 1991
Date:1/17/2013

THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The overall death rate for cancer in the United States has dropped by at least one-fifth over the past two decades, according to new statistics from the American Cancer Society.

This steady decline translates to 1.2 million lives spared between 1991 and 2009.

"In 2009, Americans had a 20 percent lower risk of death from cancer than they did in 1991, a milestone that shows we truly are creating more birthdays," John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a news release.

Death rates continue to fall for colon, breast and prostate cancers thanks to improvements in the early detection and treatment of these forms of cancer, the new report revealed. Lung cancer -- still the leading cancer killer -- is also on the decline, since the number of smokers is also dropping.

But the cancer society noted that more progress could be made if the latest advancements in cancer prevention and treatment were extended to underserved populations.

"Not all demographic groups have benefited equally from these gains, particularly those diagnosed with colorectal or breast cancer, where earlier detection and better treatments are credited for the improving trends," Seffrin said. "We can and must close this gap so that people are not punished for having the misfortune of being born poor and disadvantaged."

Between 1991 and 2009, overall cancer death rates fell by 24 percent in men and 16 percent in women, according to the society's annual Cancer Statistics report. Cancer death rates in the United States peaked in 1991 at about 215 per 100,000 people. By 2009, however, death rates had fallen to about 173 per 100,000, the report revealed.

For people with colon cancer, women with breast cancer and men with lung cancer, death rates fell by more than 30 percent. Meanwhile, prostate cancer deaths fell by more than 40 percent during this time frame.

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