The AACR Cancer Progress Report 2020 found that the number of cancer survivors living in the United States reached a record high, with more than 16.9 million survivors, according to the report.
The cancer death rate in the United States decreased by 29 percent from 1991 to 2017. That is about 2.9 million lives saved, the report said.
Since August 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also approved a record number of treatments. Thirty-five were approved between August 2019 and July 31 of this year, many of the treatments are for cancers that haven’t had many or no options.
Dr Antoni Ribas said he personally saw this improvement in care in his oncology practice. Ten years ago, only one in five patients with metastatic melanoma would have benefited from the treatments. Today, half of his patients with this type of cancer benefit from existing treatments.
“Even though we have made a lot of progress against cancer, a lot more work needs to be done,”
; Ribas said. Ribas is the president of the AACR and professor of medicine, surgery, and molecular and medical pharmacology at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California at Los Angeles. “For example, it is estimated that more than four out of 10 cancer diagnoses among us adults aged 30 years and older are attributable to potentially preventable causes such as smoking, obesity and alcohol.”
The pandemic had a negative impact
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on cancer treatment. Almost 80% of people being treated for cancer have experienced some delay in treatment due to the pandemic.
Looking at data from 190 hospitals in 23 states, the report also found that a number of cervical, breast and colon cancer screening tests decreased by 85% or more after the first cases were diagnosed. of Covid-19 in the United States.
Delays in cancer screening and treatment are expected to lead to more than 10,000 additional deaths from breast and colorectal cancer over the next decade.
Obesity and aging increase the risks
About 20% of new cancers result from a combination of excess body weight, diet and being physically inactive, according to Dr. Christopher Li, a member of the AACR steering committee. More than 40 percent of the US population is obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and half of all Americans are expected to be obese within the next decade.
“This rapid increase in obesity has fueled alarming increases in the incidence rates of a number of obesity-related cancers,” said Li, an epidemiologist who specializes in identifying breast cancer risk factors and works at Fred Hutchinson. Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “Research on how to counter the effects of obesity and cancer, along with new strategies to reduce obesity and curb this serious epidemic, are of paramount importance to public health.”
The population is also aging. Age is the biggest risk factor for developing cancer, around 60% of people who have cancer are over 65. This age group will more than double in the next 40 years. With 80 million people in that older demographic in 2040, the United States is projected to grow from just over 1.8 million cancer cases in 2020 to 2.3 million by 2040.
The children are still getting cancer
Five-year survival rates for children and teens with cancer in the United States increased from 63 percent in the mid-1970s to 85 percent in 2016, but much more research still needs to be done, according to the report.
In 2020, an estimated 413,000 children will develop cancer and 328,000 will die from it, according to the report. Cancer remains the second leading cause of death among children between the ages of 1 and 14.
Black children are 50 percent more likely to die from cancer than white children, according to the report.
Systemic racism linked to cancer
Large racial disparities remain in cancer survival rates for children and adults.
The death rate from stomach cancer is twice as high among Hispanics as among non-Hispanics, for example.
Access to care and insurance coverage is also critical. Liver cancer patients without health insurance only live half as long as liver cancer patients with coverage. Black women with ovarian cancer, on average, don’t survive as long as non-Hispanic white patients with the disease.
Populations under medical treatment receive less education on cancer prevention and less access to cancer screening. There are also disparities in the timely delivery of life-saving treatments, the report found.
“There are multiple complex reasons for these differences, but most of these factors are directly influenced by the ongoing structural and systemic racism in our country,” Li said. “To address them in a meaningful way, we must continue to see extensive changes in institutional and government policies and practices.”
What can be done
The AACR has called for additional substantial government funding for cancer research and better access to health care and screening.
Scientists also said that people can also help themselves and reduce the risk of cancer. Regular checkups and timely screening can detect cancer when it is at a stage where treatment is most effective. Regular exercise can reduce nine different types of cancer, including several common cancers such as breast, colon, and lung cancer. Quitting or not starting smoking or vaping also reduces the risk of cancer.
“By working together we will be in a better position to accelerate the pace of progress,” said Dr. Margaret Foti, CEO of AACR, “and make great strides towards the goal of preventing and treating all cancers as soon as possible.”