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CANCER July 1, 2004, Volume 101, Number 1; DOI 10.1002/cncr.20288


BACKGROUND. The American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) collaborate annually to provide updated information regarding cancer occurrence and trends in the U.S. This year’s report features a special section on cancer survival.

METHODS. Information concerning cancer cases was obtained from the NCI, CDC, and NAACCR and information concerning recorded cancer deaths was obtained from the CDC. The authors evaluated trends in age-adjusted cancer incidence and death rates by regression models and described and compared survival rates over time and across racial/ethnic populations.

RESULTS. Incidence rates for all cancers combined decreased from 1991 through 2001, but stabilized from 1995 through 2001 when adjusted for delay in reporting. The incidence rates for female lung cancer decreased (although not statistically significant for delay adjusted) and mortality leveled off for the first time after increasing for many decades. Colorectal cancer incidence rates also decreased. Death rates decreased for all cancers combined (1.1% per year since 1993) and for many of the top 15 cancers occurring in men and women. The 5-year relative survival rates improved for all cancers combined and for most, but not all, cancers over 2 diagnostic periods (1975–1979 and 1995–2000). However, cancer-specific survival rates were lower and the risk of dying from cancer, once diagnosed, was higher in most minority populations compared with the white population. The relative risk of death from all cancers combined in each racial and ethnic population compared with non-Hispanic white men and women ranged from 1.16 in Hispanic white men to 1.69 in American Indian/Alaska Native men, with the exception of Asian/Pacific Islander women, whose risk of 1.01 was similar to that of non-Hispanic white women.

CONCLUSIONS. The continued measurable declines for overall cancer death rates and for many of the top 15 cancers, along with improved survival rates, reflect progress in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancer. However, racial and ethnic disparities in survival and the risk of death from cancer, and geographic variation in stage distributions suggest that not all segments of the U.S. population have benefited equally from such advances.

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