Cancer Mortality in the United States Continues to Decline

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While cancer incidence rates have decreased among men, they've remained stable among women and have increased among children; however, there has been an overall decline in mortality rates among men, women, and children.

Cancer mortality rates continue to decline among men, women, and children in the United States, according to the latest Annual Report on the Status of Cancer.

Since 1998, the American Cancer Society, CDC, National Cancer Institute, and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) have collaborated to provide updates on cancer incidence and mortality patterns. Through 42 state registries, covering 89% of the population, researchers obtained cancer incidence rates by age, sex, and race from 1999 to 2014. Mortality data from 1999 to 2015 were collected from the National Vital Statistics System.

Researchers credit the sustainable decreases in lung cancer mortality to the reduction in cigarette smoking over the past 5 decades. Among the other 3 most commons cancers—female breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer—the continued decreases in mortality largely reflect improved early detection and more effective treatments, such as targeted therapies.

Incidence rates among men declined throughout the study period, dropping from an average of 0.6% per year from 1999 to 2008, and then declining more sharply, an average of 2.2% per year from 2008 to 2014. Prostate cancer was the most common cancer, followed by lung cancer and colorectal cancer. From 2010 to 2014, there were decreased incidence rates in 7 of the most 17 common cancers for men, including prostate, lung, colorectal, and bladder. However, incidence rates increased for 8 cancers, including melanoma of the skin, kidney, leukemia, and liver. Incidence rates were stable for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and stomach cancer.


For women, overall incidence rates remained stable during the 15-year period. Breast cancer overwhelmingly accounted for most cancer incidence, followed by lung cancer and colorectal cancer. There were decreased rates among 7 of the most common cancer sites, including lung, colorectal, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and ovary. Meanwhile, incidence rates increased across 10 cancer sites, including breast, uterine, thyroid, and melanoma of the skin.

Among both men and women, the largest increases were seen in liver cancer, myeloma, melanoma of the skin, thyroid cancer, and leukemia.

For all cancer sites combined, black men and white women had the highest incidence rates compared to other racial groups, and black men and black women had the highest death rates compared to other racial groups. Non-Hispanic men and women had higher incidence and death rates than those of Hispanic ethnicity.

From 1999 to 2015, mortality rates decreased by an average of 1.8% per year among men and by 1.4% per year among women. Lung cancer accounted for the most cancer deaths, followed by prostate cancer for men and breast cancer for women.

From 2011 to 2015, mortality rates among men decreased for 11 of the 18 most common cancers, including lung, prostate, colorectal, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Cancers of the pancreas, liver, and brain and other nervous system were among those that saw an increase in mortality rates.

During the same period, mortality rates decreased for 14 of the 20 most common cancers for women, including lung, breast, colorectal, ovary, leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. However, mortality rates increased for cancers of the pancreas, uterus, liver, and brain and other nervous system.

For children, the most common cancer sites varied by age. Overall, the most common sites are leukemia, brain and other nervous system, soft tissue, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and kidney. While incidence rates between 2010 and 2014 increased by 0.8% per year, mortality rates from 2011 to 2015 decreased by 1.5% per year.

“It’s encouraging to see progress in decreasing death rates for many types of cancers,” said Betsy A. Koehler, executive director, NAACCR, in a statement. “Yet the fact that death rates from several cancers are still on the rise means we need to keep working to find strategies to encourage prevention and continue to make improvements in screening and treatment.”


Cronin K, Lake A, Scott S, et all. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, part I: national cancer statistics. [published online May 22, 2018]. Cancer J. doi: