(NewsNation Now) — People’s risk of dying from cancer has decreased over the past 28 years as cancer death rates have dropped by a third since the ’90s, according to a new report published by the American Cancer Society.
For men and women combined, the death rate fell 32% from when it peaked in 1991 to 2019, which is the most recent year data is available.
When it comes to cancer, Dr. William Cance, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, said the main goals are to prevent it. If prevention’s not possible, Cance said, the aim is to detect it early. If it isn’t detected early, the goal then becomes getting effective treatments.
“We’ve made progress in all those areas,” Cance told NewsNation’s Adrienne Bankert on “Morning in America” Friday.
In particular, reduced smoking, better screening and better treatments across all aspects of oncology, radiation and surgery are all associated with the drop in lung cancer deaths, Cance said.
To fight cancer, the medical community is evolving toward what are called “targeted therapies,” Cance said. This is where doctors take an individual patient’s tumor and find out what abnormalities are there so they can treat the problem with a specific drug.
“It’s a targeted therapeutic as opposed to just a chemotherapy broadly,” Cance said. “We’re doing many more targeted therapeutics.”
Doctors are also learning how to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer through immunotherapy, a treatment that can boost or change how the immune system works so it can find and attack cancer cells.
“Between those two, they have made a tremendous impact in reducing the death rate,” Cance said.
To prevent getting cancer, the best thing people can do is eat healthy and have an active lifestyle.
“Activity actually can prevent cancer,” Cance said. “People with cancer who are active little longer.”
Another important way to prevent cancer is to get screened. Screenings people put off or weren’t able to do because of the COVID-19 pandemic must be done, Cance said.
According to Cance, the most cancer deaths in women are lung, breast, colon and rectal. For men, it’s prostate cancer, along with lung, colon and rectal cancer, too.
Other cancers like pancreas are right below that, Cance said.
Cancer continues to be the second most common cause of death in the US, after heart disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
A total of 1.9 million new cancer cases and 609,360 deaths from cancer are expected in the U.S. in 2022.
Researchers noted in the report that to continue to reduce cancer deaths, more investment at the national, state and local level is needed for cancer research, and making sure that successful, targeted cancer control interventions are broadly and equitably applied to all populations.