New report says fewer people are dying from cancer

by Chris Clackum
NBC News

Promising news in the war against cancer.

The latest report from the country's top cancer organizations shows the risk of dying from the dreaded disease is continuing to drop.

The downward trend first began in the early 1990's, and the newest numbers show the death rate decline has nearly doubled over the past few years.

But there is concern the victory ride may not last much longer.

According to a new report by the National Institutes of Health, more people are beating cancer.

The findings show increasing survival rates for major cancers including lung, colorectal, prostate, and breast cancer.

Dr. Edward Benz of Dana Farber Cancer Institute says the success is linked to advances in prevention, detection and treatment strategies.

"Cancer deaths are actually falling a bit faster than we expected," said Benz.

But not as fast among minorities, including American Indians and Alaskan natives.

They are highlighted in this years report with higher rates of lung and colorectal cancers.

"We still have major differences among different groups of people there are still disparities in how well patients are going," Benz said.

There are also concerns about stalls in cancer screening rates and the decline in research funding, which experts say could bring an end to the death rate decline unless changes are made.

Benz said, "Funding for cancer research and for the applications of that research is declining, and if that decline continues we'll miss the opportunity to make these rates go down even further."

Benz says the message for the public, make sure cancer prevention and early detection efforts are priorities.
According to the report, cancer death rates dropped just over two percent a year from 2002 through 2004, which is nearly double the annual decrease from 1993 through 2002.

Along with the drop in cancer death rates, the number of americans diagnosed with cancer also declined slightly.

The findings are in published in the "annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975-2004, featuring cancer in American Indians and Alaska natives."