Cancer Deaths Down but Diagnoses Rise, New Report Says

By Pat Carragher - January 20, 2022

Cancer mortality rates have been dropping for nearly 20 years thanks to advances in early detection and treatment options for lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society’s annual report on cancer statistics.

The overall cancer death rate dropped by more than 30% from 1991 to 2019. That’s roughly 215 deaths for every 100,000 people to 146, or 3.5 million total deaths during that time. A drop in mortality among lung cancer patients is one of the biggest contributors to the overall decline.

Mortality rates for lung cancer dropped about 5% per year between 2015 and 2019, while overall cancer mortality dropped about 2% over that same span.

“Although lung cancer death rates have declined, there is still much more work to be done,” said Dr. Jhanelle Gray, chair of the Department of Thoracic Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center. “It is important that patients continue their routine health care visits. Those at risk should undergo lung cancer screening and those with a concern for lung cancer should seek care with an oncologist as soon as possible. Hope exists in the advances we have and continue to make in our battle against this disease.”

portrait of blockquote author

"Hope exists in the advances we have and continue to make in our battle against this disease."

- Dr. Jhanelle Gray

The report also found that cases of breast cancer have been increasing by about 0.5% every year. In 2022, an estimated 290,560 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society and corresponding author of the report, attributes this to more women having fewer children later in life, both considered to be factors in the increased likelihood of breast cancer.

“It’s thought to be related to continued declines in the fertility rate, because the higher number of childbirths and the earlier age is protective against breast cancer, and we know that women are having children later and they’re having fewer children,” Siegel said in an interview with “ABC News.” “So that is likely contributing to this small increase.”

Overall, the report also estimates that more than 1.9 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022, equal to about 5,250 new cases being detected every day. This is up from approximately 1.8 million new cases that were discovered in 2021.

Dr. Brian McIver, Deputy Physician-in-Chief

Estimates in the American Cancer Society’s report were made based on complete data, which is only available through 2018 for cases and 2019 for deaths. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health experts have suggested that missed cancer screenings and doctor’s appointments could cause rates to rise in the coming years.

“Like other cancer centers, we observed a distinct downturn in routine cancer screenings, which has only partially recovered,” said Dr. Bryan McIver, deputy physician-in-chief at Moffitt and senior member in the Endocrine Oncology Program. “As a result, some patients were later diagnosed with more advanced stages of cancers that proper screening protocols may have diagnosed earlier. COVID-19 should not prevent any of us from receiving appropriate medical care, including relevant cancer screenings.”

Contact the Author

Pat Carragher PR Account Coordinator 813-456-3342 More Articles


Most Popular