The American Cancer Society announced promising news to start off 2019 – the overall nationwide cancer death rate has fallen continuously over the last 25 years. From 1991 to 2016, the rate dropped by a total of 27%, meaning there were approximately 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths total than expected if the death rates stayed at their peak level from 1991 to now.

What has Changed in the Past 25 Years?

CNN article shares perspectives from experts on potential reasons for the positive findings. Experts believe that reductions in smoking as well as improvements in detecting cancer and “revolutionary advances” in treatments are responsible for this decline.

The American Cancer Society’s findings confirm that the improvement in cancer mortality over this time period is in fact a result of steady reductions in smoking, in addition to advancements in both the early detection and treatment of cancer. This can be seen in the notable decrease of the top four cancers: lung, breast, prostate, and colorectum.

Rebecca Siegel, first author of the study at the American Cancer Society, noted the results were “a bit of a surprise” – as the other leading causes of death in the US are flattening, the American Cancer Society was worried this might happen for cancer as well. As more providers, payers, and researchers harness real-world evidence, fueling precision medicine, patients will be able to more quickly access the right treatments at the right time, improving patient care.

Trends to Consider

Not only are cancer deaths declining, but another promising trend is that disparities in death rates between black and white cancer patients are closing. While this is an exciting advancement, data revealed a surprising new trend: a growing gap in death rates based on wealth. Similarly, The World Health Organization celebrates this steady decline in cancer deaths but calls attention to data showing that the number of people who have cancer around the world appears to be growing; cancer remains the second leading cause of death on a global scale.

Although economic disparities and the growing number of global patients with cancer are troubling, experts have identified reasons associated with these trends. This includes increasing rates of obesity – which is a known risk factor for cancer – as well as access barriers to diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. However, the more data and evidence becomes available around these trends, the more companies and providers will be able to tailor solutions to combat specific issues, improving patient outcomes.

Moving Forward

Experts note this report is some of the “best data out there for the oncology community and those concerned with healthcare in America.” As a company, COTA is inspired by the positive strides in oncology care over the past 25 years. Through our continued innovation that helps unveil insights in real-world patient data, we hope to continue this downward trend in death rates and ultimately improve patient care and outcomes.