US Cancer Mortality Rates Continue to Drop, According to New Report

Published on: 

A report from the American Cancer Society estimated new cancer cases and deaths for 2018 and took a look at the most recent data to determine cancer incidence through 2014 and mortality through 2015.

There was a 1.7% drop in cancer death rates in the US in 2015, in line with the 26% decline over the past 2 decades, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.

The authors of the report, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, estimated the new cancer cases and deaths for 2018 and took a look at the most recent data to determine cancer incidence through 2014 and mortality through 2015. In addition, the authors estimated the number of prevented deaths from continuing declines in cancer death rates.

Incidence data were collected through the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (1973-2014); the National Program of Cancer Registries (1995-2014); and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (1995-2014). Mortality data from 1930-2015 were collected from the National Center for Health Statistics. A time series projection method was applied for the 15 years of modeled data to estimate the counts for 2018.

The authors calculated the number of cancer deaths averted as a result of a decline in cancer death rates since the 1990s by summing the difference between the annual number of recorded cancer deaths from the number that would have been expected if cancer death rates remained at their peak.


Calculations showed an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of invasive cancer for 2018, which is equivalent to more than 4700 new cancer diagnoses daily. Of the 856,370 estimated cancer cases to occur in men, prostate cancer accounts for 19% (164,690), lung and bronchus cancers account for 14% (121,680), and colon and rectum cancers account for 9% (75,610).

Of the 878,980 estimated cancer cases for women, breast cancer accounts for 30% (266,120), lung and bronchus cancers account for 13% (112,350), and colon, rectum, and uterine corpus cancer account for 7%.

Calculations also showed an estimated 609,640 cancer deaths during the year. The most common causes of cancer death are estimated to be from lung, prostate, and colorectum cancers in men, and lung, breast, and colorectum cancers in women; these 4 cancer types account for 45% of all cancer deaths.

Over the past decade, the overall cancer incidence rate for men has declined by approximately 2% each year, reflecting large continuing declines for lung and colorectum cancers as well as a sharp reduction in prostate cancer incidence, according to the authors. While there have also been declines in lung and colorectal cancers for women, increasing and stable rates for breast, uterine corpus, and thyroid cancers and melanoma have resulted in a generally stable cancer incidence rate over the past few decades.

Cancer survival is highest for prostate cancer (99%), melanoma of the skin (92%), and female breast cancer (90%); survival is lowest for pancreatic cancer (8%), lung cancer (18%), and liver cancer (18%).

Since its peak in 1991, the cancer death rate dropped 26% by 2015, accounting for approximately 2,378,600 fewer cancer deaths. “The decline in cancer mortality over the past 2 decades is primarily the result of steady reductions in smoking and advances in early detection and treatment, reflected in considerable decreases for the 4 major cancers (lung, breast, prostate, and colorectum),” wrote the authors.


Siegel R, Miller K, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2018 [published online January 4, 2018]. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians; doi:10.3322/caac.21442