The United States has been cutting cancer mortality rates since it made it a priority 50 years ago, according to a new study.
American Cancer Society researchers found that America’s total cancer mortality rate fell by about 25 percent from 1971 to 2019.
The National Cancer Act of 1971 officially declared the fight against the disease a national priority, created the modern National Cancer Institute, and resulted in more than $ 138 billion invested in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Although the number has decreased, some cancers and some areas of the country – especially the south – have remained an issue in the fight against the disease.
Cancer rates have fallen almost across the board since the US passed the National Cancer Act 1971. The bill led to large investments in the prevention and treatment of cancer in the United States and made the fight against the disease a national priority. Since then, the death rate from lung cancer has decreased by 13% and the death rate from breast cancer has decreased by over 30%.
In 1971 (above) the burden of cancer was spread across the country, although the southern US had a much higher death rate from the disease in 2019 (below)
“These results show significant progress in reducing cancer mortality with increased investment following the passage of the National Cancer Act of 1971,” the researchers wrote.
Researchers, who published their results Thursday in JAMA Oncology, gathered national data on cancer and calculated a death rate per 100,000 Americans.
They found that in 1971, the year the National Cancer Act was signed, a total of 198.9 out of 100,000 Americans died from cancer.
In the nearly 50 years between the law’s passage and 2019, the overall cancer mortality rate has dropped 26 percent to 146 out of 100,000.
However, the path to a lower cancer mortality rate has not been entirely linear.
The 1990s turned out to be a brutal decade for America’s fight against cancer, with cancer mortality peaking at 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991.
Lung, prostate, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, brain and kidney cancers also peaked in the 1990s, researchers found.
Female breast cancer reached its highest mortality rate in 1989.
America bounced back from the 1990s and managed to get cancer back under control in the decades that followed.
Lung and bronchial cancers have the highest death rate of any enrolled in the study.
In 1971 the death rate was 38.2 in 100,000 before peaking at 59.1 in 1993.
After that, however, rates began to decline again, falling to 33.4 per 100,000 inhabitants, or 12.5 percent, in 2019.
Lung cancer control is a high priority for American health officials, with indoor smoking bans, cigarette purchase restrictions, and other guidelines designed to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
The researchers also link those smoking cessation efforts to decreasing deaths from oral cancer – which fell by 34 percent over the past 50 years – and bladder cancer – by 27 percent.
Efforts to curb smoking, including banning cigarette use in restaurants, have helped lower death rates from lung, mouth and bladder cancers (file photo)
The fight against breast cancer has become a nationally recognizable effort, with many organizations branding pink in October to help raise awareness. Pictured: Breast cancer survivors hold pink pom-poms during an NFL game in Landover, Maryland in October 2021
The biggest drop in mortality has been seen in female breast cancer deaths, another cancer that has made great efforts to contain it.
In 1971, 31.7 out of 100,000 Americans died of cancer, compared with 19.4 in 100,000 in 2019 – a decrease of 38 percent.
Breast cancer awareness raising has become a nationally recognized campaign in the United States. October has been declared Breast Cancer Awareness Month and many organizations are adding pink to their branding for that month as a reminder.
There have also been national campaigns to remind women to get regular breast cancer screenings and to do regular home self-tests to find lumps in their breasts.
Although rates have fallen, cancer still remains a lingering problem in the US, and particularly in the South.
Fifty years ago, the burden of cancer was spread across the United States, with each region feeling the negative effects almost equally.
Now, however, states like Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi are particularly badly affected by the disease.
The researchers also found that western states like Arizona and California have significantly reduced their cancer mortality rates over the past few decades.