US death rates fall for lung cancer, melanoma, report says

Overall cancer death rates continue to decline in men and women for all racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.

According to the report, published in the JNCI: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, cancer death rates decreased an average of 2.2% per year among males and 1.7% per year among females between 2014 and 2018.

The decreased death rate was most prominent in lung cancer and melanoma.

"Declines in lung cancer death rates accelerated, and death rates for melanoma declined considerably in more recent years, reflecting a substantial increase in survival for metastatic melanoma," a press release by the National Cancer Institute said Thursday. 

In addition, cancer death rates decreased an average 0.9% per year among adolescents and young adults and an average of 1.4% per year among children between the same time period. 

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"It is encouraging to see a continued decline in death rates for many of the common cancers," said Karen Hacker, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "To dismantle existing health disparities and give everyone the opportunity to be as healthy as possible, we must continue to find innovative ways to reach people across the cancer care continuum — from screening and early detection to treatment and support for survivors."

The report showed a decrease in death rates for 11 of the 19 most common cancers among men, and for 14 of the 20 most common cancers among women. 

"The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum — from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors," said Karen E. Knudsen, M.B.A., Ph.D., chief executive officer, American Cancer Society. "While we celebrate the progress, we must remain committed to research, patient support, and advocacy to make even greater progress to improve the lives of cancer patients and their families."

However, the report finds that for several other major cancers, including prostate, colorectal and female breast cancers, previous declining trends in death rates slowed or disappeared. In addition, cancer incidence rates increased for pancreatic, kidney and female breast cancers. 

Meanwhile, the most common cancer types among children, including leukemia, brain and other nervous system cancers, and lymphoma, saw increasing incidence trends for all three from 2001-2017.

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The report noted these increases or slowing trends could be driven by risk factors including an increase in obesity. 

"I believe we could achieve even further improvements if we address obesity, which has the potential to overtake tobacco use to become the leading modifiable factor associated with cancer," said Norman E. "Ned" Sharpless, M.D., director of the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

According to, obesity rates in the U.S. are rising. The company says around 17% of American children ages 2 to 19 are obese and about 36.5% of adults are obese. Another 32.5% of American adults are overweight. In all, more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to Healthline.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.