By Kelly Young
Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Lorenzo Di Francesco, MD, FACP, FHM
NEJM Journal Watch
A continued decline in lung cancer mortality is driving the drop in overall cancer mortality in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society’s annual cancer report in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.
Lung cancer death rates fell by 54% among males from 1990 to 2018 and by 30% among females from 2002 to 2018. From 2009 to 2018, the annual decline for lung cancer mortality doubled from 2.4% to 5%. The authors say this is likely from improvements in treatment. Incidence rates have also steadily decreased as smoking has decreased. Progress in survival is limited to patients with non-small-cell lung cancer.
In 2021, an estimated 1.9 million Americans are projected to be diagnosed with cancer, with 609,000 deaths. The authors note that the 2021 projections do not take into account the pandemic, saying that it will take years to determine the true effects of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses and mortality. They expect that limited access to care will mean a short-term drop in cancer diagnoses, with more people being diagnosed at a later stage.