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Deaths caused by cancer in the U.S. have fallen by 33% since 1991

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However, racial health disparities remain.
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A new report by the American Cancer Society shows that cancer deaths in the U.S. fell by 33% between the peak in 1991 and the latest figures from 2020.

The Cancer Society says this has averted 3.8 million deaths.

However, the American Cancer Society also notes racial disparities remain. While white people have the highest rates of cancer, non-white people are generally more likely to die from it.

Why have rates fallen?

The American Cancer Society lists several factors driving down cancer rates.

The largest is fewer people smoking, leading to lower rates of lung and other cancers. Other factors include better prevention and screening (such as for breast, cervix, colon and prostate cancers) and improved treatments.

Racial disparities

The report also notes that there are continuing racial disparities in cancer outcomes. White people have the highest rates of cancer but often have lower death rates.

For example, Black women are 4% less likely to develop breast cancer than white women but 40% more likely to die from it. Black women are also twice as likely to die from endometrial cancer despite similar rates of developing the cancer.

Australian figures

Australian cancer survival figures have also improved in recent decades. According to Government figures, the cancer death rate fell by 29% between 1982 and 2021. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed by cancer has increased significantly, and Australia and New Zealand have the lowest cancer mortality rates of any region in the world.

However, cancer remains a leading cause of death in Australia, accounting for 30% of all deaths in 2020.

Australia also has large disparities in cancer rates.

First Nations people are 14% more likely than non-First Nations Australians to develop cancer and 45% more likely to die from cancer.

Compared with those in advantaged areas, Australians living in the most disadvantaged areas have the highest rates of cancer development and cancer deaths.

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