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National Cancer Report Card Shows Progress, Setbacks

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Thursday, July 8, 2021 - 4:16pm

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Arizona Department Of Health Services

Cancer accounts for almost 21% of deaths in Arizona, barely edged out by heart disease as the state's leading cause of death.

Now, the annual cancer report issued by the American Cancer Society, CDC, North American Association of Central Cancer Registries and National Cancer Institute offers good news — mixed with some concerning trends.

According to the latest Cancer Report to the Nation, cancer rates remained steady for males but rose among females, children and young adults.

That differs from Arizona, where the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) says rates for females declined over the last five years. ADHS says childhood cancer rates in the state declined in 2016 and 2017 but show an overall 12% increase over the past five years.

Death rates in the U.S. fell for 11 of the 19 most common cancers among males and for 14 of the 20 most common cancers among females. The authors says those drops most likely stem from declines in risk factors like smoking and advances in screenings and treatments.

The news was more tepid for colorectal cancers, which saw their declines slow down.

Declines also slowed for female breast cancers, the most commonly diagnosed cancers among women and the second-leading cause of cancer death in that sex.

Rates leveled off for prostate cancer after sharply declining from 2007-2014, possibly due to changes in prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing following U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations.

Rates for lung cancers and melanoma improved, although lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in both sexes, accounting for more than 22% of all cancer deaths in the U.S.

ADHS says Arizona saw breast and colorectal cancer rates drop in the past five years, while melanoma rates increased, likely due to better reporting. Among the state's top 10 cancers, kidney and renal pelvis cancers increased 5.2% and uterus cancers grew 6.3%.

Some formerly declining cancer mortality rates in the U.S. flattened, while others continued increasing.

Steeper upticks often occurred in cancers linked to obesity, such as cancers of the female breast, uterus, pancreas or kidney, as well as myeloma. Several such cancers are trending younger over time, raising concerns about future disease burdens.

Death rates for multiple cancer types remain higher among Black people than in other racial or ethnic groups. For example, although breast and uterine cancers occur at about equal rates in Black women and white women, breast cancer kills 40% more Black women and uterine cancer death rates are twice as high.

The report attributes the cancer disparity to multiple factors, including tumor biology, stage at diagnosis, quality and timing of treatment, and systemic discrimination. It also says "Black persons and individuals of lower socioeconomic groups in general are more likely to have a higher exposure to some cancer risk factors and limited access to healthy food, safe places for physical activity, and evidence-based cancer preventive services."

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