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  • US Cancer Death Rates Decline Overall, Remain Low in California

    US Cancer Death Rates Decline Overall, Remain Low in California

    According to a federal report released by the government, cancer mortality rates have fallen by a full 1.5 percent per year between 2001 and 2010,  amounting to a decline of almost 13 percent over ten years.

    Lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers; however, mortality rates decreased by 2 percent annually during the period studied. Approximately 25 percent of cancer-related deaths are from lung cancer.

    Lung cancers are divided into two types: small cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer. The first, which accounts for almost 90 percent of cases, is primarily caused by cigarette smoking.

    The four most common cancers are:


    Cancer Mortality Rate in California

    For San Diego County, cancer mortality rates decreased by 2 percent annually for lung cancer and by 1.3 percent annually overall.

    According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, the actual death rates in San Diego County and California as a whole were already lower than the national rate. Therefore the slightly slower rate of decline was not as much of a concern.

    The CDC reported that the per-100,000 death rates in 2009 were 173.09 for the entire nation, 159.0 for California, and 159.4 for San Diego County.

    Gaining an Advantage Out West

    “Unfortunately, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in incidence, and it has a pretty high mortality rate,” said the disease team leader for lung cancer at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, Dr. Lyudmila A. Bazhenova said. “Overall, 85 percent of patients with lung cancer will die from the disease. So even a small percentage difference turns into a lot of lives saved, or longer survival times for patients with Stage 4 (advanced) disease.”

    What gives California this advantage? The state has benefited from the strong actions against smoking, said Bazhenova. Smoking is recognized as the number one cause of lung cancer, not to mention a contributor to other kinds of cancer.

    Though lung cancer mortality rates dropped, they increased for the following types of cancer:

    • Liver
    • Pancreas
    • Skin (melanoma)
    • Soft tissue cancers, for example
      • Heart

    They remained stable for:

    They decreased for:

    • Luekemia
    • Ovarian
    • Stomach
    • Lung
    • Prostate
    • Colorectal

    Though overall death rates fell across all ethnic and racial groups, there were still disparities in the statistics. For example, death rates were higher for men than for women. Black men, with 276.6 per 100,000 men, had the highest cancer death rates of any group.

    Current State of Comorbidities

    Comorbidities” were also addressed in the report. They are chronic diseases than can complicate cancer and reduce patients’ odds of survival.

    The most common are:

    • Diabetes
    • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
    • Congestive heart failure

    Comorbidities occur most often in lung cancer patients, at a striking 52.9 percent.

    Though there were both positive and negative findings in this 10-year report, it is certainly good news that cancer death rates are declining overall. A 13 percent drop in cancer death rates over a decade is only the beginning of many improvements in years to come.