Alec Stone
Alec Stone MA, MPA, ONS Public Affairs Director

In May 2019, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Cancer Society, and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) released a report detailing the decreasing cancer mortality rates in the United States. It’s a welcome trend among the cancer community, highlighting past efforts in prevention, screening, and early detection—along with improving rates of treatment success. 

From 1999–2016, cancer death rates in men, women, and children in the United States dropped. Overall, the decline has been a boon for the cancer community.

“It is important to recognize that cancer mortality rates are declining in the 20-to-49-year-old age group,” Acting NCI Director Doug Lowy, MD, said. “Similarly, the rates of decline among women in this age group are faster than those in older women.”

Lowy called for continued efforts in prevention and treatment to improve public health, especially among outlier groups and those facing racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities.

The report made specific references to the following cancer incidents:

  • Overall death rates decreased 1.8% per year in men and 1.4% per year in women.
  • Among men, death rates decreased for 10 of the 19 most common cancers but increased for six cancers, with the steepest increases for liver cancer, oral cavity and pharynx cancer, and non-melanoma skin cancer.
  • Among women, death rates decreased for 13 of the 20 most common cancers, including the three most common cancers (lung and bronchus, breast, and colorectal), but increased for five cancer types, with the steepest increases for cancers of the uterus and liver.

“Major declines overall in cancer mortality point in the right direction, yet significant differences remain in cancer cases and deaths based on gender, ethnicity, and race,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said. “A better understanding of these discrepancies improves cancer diagnosis and recovery for all patients and is vital to our public health mission.”