Cancer deaths in America are on the decline according to a report released Tuesday by The American Cancer Society. The report said that the risk of Americans dying from cancer has dropped 20 percent since 1993. It’s still a top killer though, claiming 1600 lives every day.
The annual report, based on information from the Centers for Disease Control in Prevention in Atlanta, went on to say the most frequent cancers for females are colon cancer, breast and lung cancers. For men, the main cancers were colon, prostrate and lung.
Of new cancers in women, 29 percent are breast cancer and lung cancer remains the deadliest and is responsible for 25 percent of the deaths of men and women combined.
Researches at Mt Sinai hospital in New York point to the declining popularity of smoking as the main reason cancers deaths are declining.
William Oh, chief of medical oncology at Mt Sinai said, “A big part of this decrease in mortality is certainly linked to the decrease in cigarette smoking because we know that lung cancer is such a lethal disease that once you have it, very often you will die of it.”
Compared to 20 years ago, people are getting diagnosed earlier and receiving better treatment today. The decline, also caused by better health education and awareness avoided more than 1.3 million deaths in the U.S. over the same period.
While more men have been saved, 952,700 than women 387,700, over that period women’s rate of getting cancer has remained stable.
While advances in diagnosis and treatment have been made and cancer deaths are on the decline, tumors have continued to stymie most experts. Their complexity and the tendency to develop in different parts of the body continues to challenge the scientific community.
“One of the key issues around cancer is it is not just one disease. It is truly multiple diseases,” Oh said. This can make it difficult to find one drug that will successfully treat every person with the same cancer.
The rate of cancer death among middle aged black men has been cut by 50 percent which John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society calls ‘extraordinary’. The optimism is tempered though by the awareness that the death rates among black men are higher than those for white men when considering all major cancers.
Currently, most cancer drugs are poisons which are designed to attack and kill cancer cells. Much of the treatments don’t stop at just attacking cancer cells but healthy cells as well, creating unpleasant side effects.
A new form of treatment called “molecularly targeted therapy” consists of drugs that are designed at the cellular level to precisely target and kill cancer cells of a specific type of cancer. Tailor made to recognize specific molecules which are the “signature” of specific cancers, the new therapy appears to leave healthy normal cells undisturbed.
Showing the most promise so far is Glivec which is used against a relatively rare form of leukemia called CML. With roughly 7,000 Americans diagnosed with CML annually, doctors are hopeful that the drug could prove successful and provide a model for similar drugs to treat other cancers.
More work needs to be done but with cancer deaths on the decline there is an encouraging sign that things are heading in the right direction.
By Jerry Nelson