The cancer death rate declined by 29 percent from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2 percent drop from 2016 to 2017 — the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported, according to Cancer Statistics, 2020, the latest edition of the American Cancer Society’s annual report on cancer rates and trends.
Data from the report reveals that overall cancer death rates dropped by an average of 1.5 percent per year during the most recent decade of data (2008-2017), continuing a trend that began in the early 1990s, and resulting in the 29 percent drop in cancer mortality in that time.
The drop translates to approximately 2.9 million fewer cancer deaths than would have occurred had mortality rates remained at their peak.
In this day and age a lot of times a clinical trial is the best way folks can get access to a life-saving therapy.
– Dr. Janice Mehnert, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Lung cancer death rates have dropped by 51 percent (since 1990) in men and by 26 percent (since 2002) in women, with the most rapid progress in recent years. For example, reductions in mortality accelerated from 3 percent per year during 2008-2013 to 5 percent per year during 2013-2017 in men, and from 2 percent to almost 4 percent in women.
However, lung cancer still accounts for almost one-quarter of all cancer deaths, more than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined.
Dr. Janice Mehnert, a medical oncologist at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, said when it comes to dollars spent on research, for skin cancer, in particular, the data from the study shows a return on investment.
“A lot of our advances lately are due to the development of targeted immunotherapies that until recently have sometimes only been available in clinical trials,” Mehnert told NJBIZ.
Mehnert said that there are a lot of advantages to participating in clinical research protocols.
“Research is expensive and can cost money and can often only be done at specialized centers like ours. It drives home the point that historically a lot of folks thought of clinical trials as a last resort but that is really starting to change. In this day and age a lot of times a clinical trial is the best way folks can get access to a life-saving therapy,” said Mehnert.