Cancer Death Rates See Largest-Ever Single-Year Drop

February 26, 2020 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

Overall U.S. cancer mortality fell 2.2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest reduction for a single year, according to the American Cancer Society’s “Cancer Statistics, 2020,” published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. (

The society attributed the decline to deaths from lung cancer, which saw reductions that accelerated from 3% annually from 2008–2013 to 5% annually in 2013–2016 in men and from 2% to almost 4% in women. Mortality reductions also fell dramatically for melanoma, escalating to 7% annually from 2013–2017 compared to 1% from 2006–2010 in men and women aged 50–64 and from 2% to 3% in patients aged 20–49. Of the other leading cancer types, mortality rates slowed for female breast and colorectal cancers and halted for prostate cancer.

The lung cancer mortality reduction is attributed to reduced incidence as more people avoid smoking, and the melanoma mortality reduction is linked to the newer approved therapies for advanced disease.

The overall cancer incidence rate has stabilized for both men and women. However, incidence continues to increase for cancers of the kidney, pancreas, liver, and oral cavity and pharynx (among non‐Hispanic whites). Liver cancer incidence increased the most rapidly, from 2% to 3% annually from 2007–2016.

Another report from the United European Gastroenterology Week 2019 ( annual meeting showed that the burden of pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer is global. According to worldwide data from the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study, pancreatic cancer incidence rates increased by 10% and deaths by 12% from 1990 to 2017—and the highest rates were in high-income countries. Global colorectal cancer incidence also increased 9.5% over the same years, but the death rate decreased by 13.5%.

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