Overall cancer death rate in the U.S. drops, but remains high in some regions

Published: Monday, March 27, 2017 by Interim HealthCare

The overall death rate from cancer in the U.S. fell by 20.1 percent from 1980 to 2014, according to a new report published in the most recent issue of JAMA. In analyzing death records from the National Center for Health Statistics to estimate mortality rates among 29 types of cancer, the study also revealed that there is a disparity in these death rates in various counties and regions of the country.

Overall decrease in cancer mortality
The bigger picture reveals that overall, cancer death rates are declining, according to the source. Enhanced and improved treatment were among the factors listed by researchers as having helped to improve the mortality rate for cancer nationwide. Per 100,000 individuals in the U.S. the rate of deaths related to cancer fell from 240.2 in 1980 to 192 in 2014. However, population-based modeling study also revealed telling data that goes deeper than just state- or nation-based statistics.

Could geographic location determine your cancer mortality risk?
Reporting on the latest study, the Los Angeles Times explained that this is the first time that the No. 2 leading cause of death in the country has been analyzed by county. Past reporting that has focused on state or national cancer mortality statistics was missing data that would have revealed a disparity among geographic location.

"These local patterns would be masked if a national or a state number were provided," wrote the authors of the study published in JAMA. "Moreover, the study was able to identify clusters of high rates of change among US counties, which is important for providing data to inform the debate on prevention, access to care, and appropriate treatment. Indeed, monitoring cancer mortality at the county level can help identify worsening incidence, inadequate access to quality treatment, or potentially other etiological factors involved."

While the rate of cancer death was dropping across the country, some nooks and crannies of states were recording rising death rates. For example, over 20 counties throughout Appalachia and the northeast region of Kentucky saw cancer mortality rates increase between as much as 20 to 46 percent. The biggest cancer culprits for these rising rates were liver, lung, pancreas and colon cancer. Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma recorded a rise in kidney cancer deaths and several counties in California saw increased mortality linked to testicular cancer.

According to the report published in JAMA, the authors cited obesity and diet, both of which contribute to other diseases such as diabetes and stroke as well, as factors that may have had an impact on rising cancer mortality rates in certain counties across the country. Future studies of the same kind may reveal even more information that would help doctors and industry leaders properly address concerns.

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