September 8, 2006

More evidence shows cancer deaths on decline in nation

Featured Image

Elaine Wood, left, and Angel An show off the hats they made at Employee Celebration Month’s Tuesday kickoff. See page 8 for more photos from the day’s events.
Photo by Anne Rayner

More evidence shows cancer deaths on decline in nation

Good news on the cancer front — death rates from the disease continue to drop, including an overall decline for most cancers in the United States, while the rate of new cancers being diagnosed remains stable overall.

However, the large and rapidly growing U.S. Latino/Hispanic population faces higher incidence rates in some cancers, according to data in the report, “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2003, Featuring Cancer among U.S. Hispanic/Latino Populations.”

The report was first issued in 1998 and is a collaboration of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society (ACS), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report includes a special section on cancer among U.S. Latino/Hispanic populations. The report finds that from 1999 to 2003, Latinos had lower incidence rates than non-Hispanic whites (NHW) for most cancers, but were less likely than the NHW population to be diagnosed with localized stage disease for cancers of the lung, colon and rectum, prostate, female breast and cervix. However, Latino children have higher incidence rates of leukemia, retinoblastoma, osteosarcoma and germ cell tumors than do non-Latino white children.

The authors of the report outlined several factors contributing to the increase in these cancers among Latinos, including: elevated exposure to environmental risk factors in the living and workplace; lower education, health literacy and income; language barriers; reduced use of screening services; limited access to health care, often due to lack of insurance; and less information available regarding possible genetic predisposition to cancer.

“The report underscores the need for culturally competent cancer prevention and control,” said Elizabeth Williams, Ph.D., associate director for Minority Affairs at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “As Latino/Hispanic populations grow in Nashville and surrounding areas, Vanderbilt-Ingram will be a part of addressing the cancer needs of these populations through tailored education, screening and early detection.”

The report includes comprehensive data on trends over the past several decades for all major cancers. It shows that the long-term decline in overall cancer death rates continued through 2003 for all races and both sexes combined. The declines were greater among men (1.6 percent per year from 1993 through 2003) than women (0.8 percent per year from 1992 through 2003).

Death rates decreased for 11 of the 15 most common cancers in men and for 10 of the 15 most common cancers in women. The authors attribute the decrease in death rates, in part, to successful efforts to reduce exposure to tobacco, earlier detection through screening, and more effective treatment.

“This is great news and the result of a tremendous amount of hard work, but we must increase the pace of our progress and re-double our efforts in cancer research to maintain this momentum,” said Raymond DuBois, M.D., Ph.D., director of Vanderbilt-Ingram.

“With the declining net amount of federal research support, I fear that we may lose ground in the future, especially with the fast approaching baby boomer population hitting the age at which they are at a much higher risk for cancer.”

To see the full report go to: cancer/report2006. It is expected to be published in the Oct. 15 issue of the journal Cancer.