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February 21, 2006

Turning point in cancer war?

Topics: Medicine

According to an article in Grand Rapids Press, sourcing American Cancer Society data, it appears that we may indeed be at a turning point in the war on cancer.

Cancer deaths in the United States have fallen for the first time in more than 70 years. The drop is a testament to advances in prevention, early detection and effective treatment. It shows that efforts to eliminate the disease as a major health threat are slowly paying off.

The decrease in deaths was slight -- just 369 fewer out of more than half a million between 2002 and 2003, the latest years for which data are available. But the drop was a significant change in direction in the decades-long war against cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) believes the downward trend will continue. The group is projecting a more significant drop in deaths this year.

There is good reason for such optimism. Annual death rates for lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer, the four most common cancers, have been falling for more than a decade. Together, they account for 51 percent of all cancer deaths. But the total number of cancer deaths still rose each year because the growth in population outpaced the falling death rates -- until 2003.

As the article points out, the drop in overall cancer deaths shouldn't lull anyone into thinking the disease has been beaten, or that we can diminish investments in the search for cures, or for reverting to bad health habits. More than 500,000 people are projected to die from cancer this year. But the declining number of deaths provides some optimism that cancer can be controlled and defeated.

Posted by Richard at February 21, 2006 3:43 PM



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