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Cancer Death Rate Drop Spares 1.5 Million Americans: Report

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A 22 percent drop in cancer death rates during the past two decades has spared the lives of more than 1.5 million people in this country, the American Cancer Society reported Tuesday.

In its annual dissection of cancer diagnoses, mortality and survival data, the group pinned the ongoing decline in cancer death rates on a downturn in U.S. smoking habits, extra attention to cancer prevention, improvements in various cancer treatments, and advances in early detection methods.

The pace of cancer deaths is falling in every state, but Southern states have generally posted the smallest decreases (15 percent) while Northeastern states have marked the biggest reductions (25 to 30 percent), according to the data, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Between 2007 and 2011 – the most recent five years for which data are available – the average, annual decline in cancer death rates was slightly better among men (1.8 percent) than women (1.4 percent). Death rates from cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, and colon all fell.

“The continuing drops we’re seeing in cancer mortality are reason to celebrate, but not to stop,” said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “Cancer was responsible for nearly one in four deaths in the United States in 2011, making it the second leading cause of death overall.”

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-- Bill Briggs

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