Cancer is a major public health concern that affects more than 1.6 million Americans each year. It is the second leading cause of death in the United States. Although the cancer death (mortality) rate continues to decline across all populations, certain groups suffer a greater burden of disease, and the financial and emotional hardships caused by a cancer diagnosis persist. Thus, our nation has made large investments in cancer care and research.
The Cancer Trends Progress Report is an annual report published by the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS). The report summarizes the nation’s advances against cancer in relation to Healthy People 2020 targets. It includes key measures of progress along the cancer control continuum—including prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, life after cancer, and end of life—and uses national trend data to illustrate where improvements have been made. Measures for lung cancer screening and prostate cancer screening are new to this February 2018 release. Also discussed are the impacts of radon exposure, human papillomavirus (HPV), tobacco advertising, obesity, and e-cigarettes on cancer prevention and survivorship. Additionally, DCCPS Director Robert Croyle, PhD shares his thoughts about advancing scientific progress and research in the Director’s Message.
Interactive tools in the report offer the ability to generate custom reports and view trend data by several variables, including sex, age, race, ethnicity, income, and education. The report is especially useful for policy makers, researchers, and public health professionals.
Behaviors, such as avoiding sun exposure, indoor tanning, and tobacco are critical to preventing cancer. Receiving the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is recommended by the CDC for males and females ages 9 through 26, is another a way to reduce the risk of cancer. HPV is known to cause many types of cancer, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal, and penile. However, HPV vaccination does not protect against all infections that may cause cancer, so routine screening and early detection are important for prevention and cancer care. Making healthy dietary choices, engaging in regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol consumption may also help prevent cancer.
The early detection of cancer is critical because it allows treatment to be given in a timely manner, which is likely to be more effective and increase the chances of survival. Since screening rates are generally lower in populations with less education and lower incomes, later detection contributes to the disparities seen in cancer survival.
The number of new cancer cases (incidence) helps determine the extent of progress against cancer. A lower incidence rate (number of new cancer cases occurring in a specific population during a specific time period) suggests greater progress. Incidence trends vary by cancer site and by racial and ethnic group. Knowing the stage at cancer diagnosis is also necessary, as it affects survival and the type of treatment.
There are several treatment options for people with cancer, including surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy. Treatment guidelines are based on rigorous evidence.
Life After Cancer
Due to medical advances the length of survival after cancer diagnosis is improving. Yet, certain factors can affect quality of life for cancer survivors. The financial burden of cancer care is steadily rising, and many survivors continue to use tobacco despite increased risk for chronic health conditions and premature death. Maintaining a healthy weight and engaging in regular physical activity can enhance health outcomes after a cancer diagnosis. Taking those steps can also minimize the risk of developing new cancers that are associated with obesity, such as pancreatic, kidney, and esophageal.
End of Life
Reducing the death rate from cancer is a measure of success against this group of diseases. A lower death rate suggests greater progress. Another way to describe the impact of cancer is in person-years of life lost. Person-years of life lost shows the impact of cancer on different age segments in the population.
While the cancer death rate continues to decline across all populations and for many types of cancer, our nation continues to conduct vigorous research to improve outcomes. New data and trends will soon become available. Please visit the site to view the full report, and look ahead to the updated report next year.