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5 Takeaways: Cancer Death Rate Drops 33 Percent from 1991

January 19, 2023

The rate of Americans dying from cancer has continued to trend in the right direction during the past 30 years, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

The report, released this month, indicated overall cancer mortality has dropped 33 percent since 1991. The drop in the mortality rate helped avert 3.8 million cancer deaths during that time, the report notes. Changes in tobacco control policies played a significant role in the reduction of cancer deaths, the authors wrote.

“Saving lives from cancer is as much a matter of public policy as scientific discovery,” the report concludes.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • National perspective:  There are projected to be about 1.96 million new cancer cases and 609,820 cancer deaths in the United States during 2023.
  • Pennsylvania cases:  There will be an estimated 88,450 new cancer cases in Pennsylvania during 2023, including 13,210 prostate cancer cases, 12,830 breast cancer cases, and 11,320 lung and bronchus cancer cases.
  • Statewide mortality:  In Pennsylvania, there will be an estimated 27,460 cancer deaths during 2023. Lung and bronchus cancer (5,720) is expected to account for the largest share of those deaths.
  • Insights:  Policies related to tobacco control have helped avert about 2 million smoking-related deaths.
  • Quotable:  “Cancer is a disease that affects everyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally. We are working to ensure everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer,” the report notes.

The report noted a 65 percent reduction in cervical cancer rates for women between 20 and 24 through 2012 and 2019. This drop followed the introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, the authors note.

“The large drop in cervical cancer incidence is extremely exciting because this is the first group of women to receive the HPV vaccine, and it probably foreshadows steep reductions in other HPV-associated cancers,” Rebecca Siegel, senior scientific director, surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

After two decades of decline, prostate cancer—the second leading cause of cancer death for men—increased 3 percent per year from 2014 and 2019. The number of advanced-stage prostate cancer also increased between 4 percent and 5 percent annually, underscoring “the importance of understanding and reducing this trend.”

“In order to end cancer as we know it, for everyone, it is imperative for us to focus on cancers where trends for incidence and mortality are going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Karen E. Knudsen, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement.

HAP continues to monitor the latest public health developments and will provide updates to members.

The cancer society’s Cancer Facts and Figures 2023 report is available online.