After remaining largely stable from 2011–2019, cancer incidence rates dropped sharply in 2020 while mortality remained level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its 2023 U.S. Cancer Statistics report.

Tracking, analyzing, and reporting U.S. cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality rates are among the responsibilities of the CDC’s Division of Cancer. Through its registry, the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries, and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, the agency measures clinical, demographic, and outcome data from the U.S. population. 

The agency attributed 2020’s lower cancer diagnoses to delayed or missed cancer screenings because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s shutdown and limited access to routine care.

According to the CDC report, “Changes in cancer incidence may be apparent immediately while changes in death rates may take years to see. CDC will continue to monitor data to understand the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on cancer incidence and mortality.”

Listen to Lisa Richardson, MD, MPH, director of the CDC Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, discuss how oncology nurses can improve cancer screening rates on the Oncology Nursing Podcast Episode 118. Then hear Ned Sharpless, MD, who was the National Cancer Institute director at the time of the interview, explain the impact of delayed cancer screening and care on future incidence rates on the Oncology Nursing Podcast Episode 122.