The last Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer has provided an update on the latest statistics and trends in cancer cases and deaths in the United States. This year’s report, published in Cancer, it also focuses on pancreatic cancer.
Knowledge in the fight against cancer
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The number of new cancer cases globally is expected to rise to 27.5 million, with 16.3 million cancer deaths, by 2040. Cancers of the breast, lung, colon, and prostate are the four most common cancers worldwide, accounting for approximately 40% of all new cases.
In the US, annual reports on statistical trends in cancer cases since 1998 are published as part of a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Cancer Societythe National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).
These reports examine a vast amount of data, analyzing trends in cancer incidence, mortality, and survival by cancer type, sex, age, and racial/ethnic groups.
The current report combined information on race and ethnicity to create five mutually exclusive groups: Non-Hispanic White (White), Non-Hispanic Black (Black), Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN), Non-Hispanic Asian/West Islander Pacific (API) and Hispanic (of any race).
Additionally, data from the various groups analyzed in the current report was collected at time points ranging from 2001 to 2019; therefore, it is important to note that all data was collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cancer incidence rates
The overall incidence rates per 100,000 people were 497 for men and 431 for women between 2014 and 2018.
API and black men had the lowest and highest incidence rates among men, respectively, and API and AI/AN women also had the lowest and highest rates, respectively, for women.
However, the incidence varied for 18 of the most common cancer types included in this report:
- For men, the incidence rates of three of these cancers increased (including pancreas and kidney), seven remained stable (including prostate), and eight decreased (including lung and larynx).
- For women, the incidence rates of seven cancers increased (including melanoma, liver and breast), four cancers remained stable (including uterine) and seven decreased (including thyroid and ovarian).
Additionally, for breast cancer, the most common cancer among adolescents and young adults (15 to 39 years of age), the incidence rate increased by 1.0% per year on average between 2010 and 2018.
Combining data for men and women showed that the decline in overall cancer death rates steepened between 2001 and 2019, with a decline of 2.1% per year. Similar trends were also seen in overall death rates in each of the racial/ethnic groups analyzed in the report.
Data from adolescents and young adults showed a decrease in death rates of 3% per year between 2001 and 2005; however, this rate of decline slowed to about 0.9% per year thereafter.
Racial and ethnic disparities
The report also highlighted racial and ethnic disparities in both incidence rates (2014-2018) and death rates (2015-2019) across many types of cancer, as summarized in the table below.
type of cancer
Incidence and mortality rates
In white, black, ApI, and Hispanic men, the incidence of bladder cancer decreased.
The incidence increased among AI/AN males.
Incidence rates were stable in white women but increased in all other racial/ethnic groups.
Lung, breast and colon cancer
Incidence rates decreased for women in all racial/ethnic groups.
For AI/AN women, mortality rates for breast cancer increased but remained stable for colon cancer.
Breast cancer mortality rates remained stable among API women.
Mortality rates decreased for API, AI/AN, and Hispanic men.
The rates were stable for black and white men.
Dr. Lisa C. Richardsondirector of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, elaborated on these findings in a Press release: “Factors such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status should not play a role in people’s ability to stay healthy or determine how long they will live. [The] CDC works with its public health partners, inside and outside of government, to address these disparities and promote health equity through a variety of key initiatives, including programs, research, and policy initiatives. We know we can meet this challenge together and create an America where people are cancer free.”
A special focus on pancreatic cancer
The pancreas is an organ located behind the stomach that produces enzymes that help digest food, as well as hormones like insulin and glucagon that regulate blood sugar levels.
Pancreatic cancer is commonly diagnosed once it is already in its advanced stages – early pancreatic cancers often have vague symptoms or even no symptoms at all. For these reasons, the combined 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 5-10%.
In the current report, researchers explain that pancreatic cancer diagnoses account for about 3% of new cancer cases; however, they also account for 8% of cancer deaths.
However, the report also highlights important advances in survival rates for certain types of pancreatic cancer. Between 2001 and 2017, the one-year relative survival of patients with neuroendocrine tumors increased from 65.9% to 84.2%, and there was also an increase from 24% to 36.7% for patients with adenocarcinomas.
“Pancreatic cancer incidence and survival reflect both the underlying risk of the disease and the difficulty of diagnosing pancreatic cancer at a treatable stage,” he said. Betsy A Kohler, MPH, executive director of the NAACCR. “As advances in screening technology and effective treatments for early-stage disease become available, we expect further improvements in survival for pancreatic cancer, which has historically been a particularly deadly type of cancer.”
- Overall cancer death rates in the US decreased for men, women, and children in all major racial/ethnic groups between 2015 and 2019
- New cancer cases remained stable for men and children, but increased for women between 2014 and 2018
- The steepest declines in death rate were for lung cancer and melanoma.
- Racial and ethnic disparities persist in both cancer incidence and mortality