Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By Maggie Fox

More Americans are dying from cancer, but it’s because the population is growing, researchers reported Thursday. The actual risk is falling.

The number of deaths will rise most among black women: 10 percent from 2007 to 2020, according to projections from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number will also rise 10 percent among men over that time, but rates will grow by just 4.4 percent among white women.

The numbers are growing because more white people are living to older ages, when cancer becomes more common, and because the black population overall is growing, CDC’s Hannah Weir and colleagues reported.

“We used mortality data from 1975 through 2009 and population estimates and projections to predict deaths for all cancers and the top 23 cancers among men and women by race,” they wrote in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

“From 1975 to 2009, the number of cancer deaths increased among white and black Americans primarily because of an aging white population and a growing black population,” they wrote.

They found that from 1975 to 2009 the number of cancer deaths increased by:

  • 45.5 percent among white males
  • 56 percent among white female
  • 52.8 percent among black males
  • 98.2 percent among black females

“Thus, while the overall risk of dying from cancer is declining, the impact of underlying demographic changes in the population will increase the burden of cancer on society and health care systems,” they wrote.

The American Cancer Society projects that in 2015, 1.66 million people will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 589,000 will die of it.

Rates of breast, cervical and colon cancer are falling, in part because of better screening but also because of better treatments. Lung cancer remains the No. 1 killer by far, with an estimated 224,210 new diagnoses and 159,260 deaths in 2014.