Lung, Melanoma, and Overall Cancer Death Rates Decline, According to 2021 Report

August 02, 2021 by Alec Stone MA, MPA, Former ONS Director of Government Affairs and Advocacy

Cancer mortality for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States continues to decline, with death rates for lung cancer and melanoma decreasing faster than others, according to findings that the American Cancer Society ( (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (, the National Cancer Institute (, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries ( (NAACCR) published in their July 2021 Annual Report to the Nation ( on the status of cancer.

The group reported ( that from 20012018, cancer mortality decreased by 2.2% for assigned males and 1.7% among assigned females. However, for several major cancers, including prostate, colorectal, and female breast cancers, previous declining trends in death rates slowed or disappeared.

Overall cancer incidence rates continued to increase among assigned females, children, and young adults. Incidence rates were higher among assigned males in every racial and ethnic group except Asian/Pacific Islander. Overall cancer incidence rates were slightly lower among Blacks than Whites, but Blacks had higher death rates. Liver cancer incidence has stabilized, according to the report (

“The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum—from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” ACS Chief Executive Officer Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, said (

The cancer community must continue to advocate for more research and patient-centered care, particularly in areas like cancer prevention (, detection (, and treatment, especially for underrepresented populations. When evaluating health disparities (, researchers must acknowledge the social factors ( that influence the health of the communities and access to health care, according to NAACCR Executive Director Betsy A. Kohler, MPH.

Access to care for under resourced communities ( and health disparities are ONS advocacy priorities. Learn to recognize and advocate for health disparities with ONS resources like the Oncology Nursing Podcast ( and courses such as Advocacy 101: Making a Difference ( and join your voice with ONS’s among policymakers.

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