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US cancer rates drop record amount, impact of COVID uncertain

3 million deaths have been averted over 27 years
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 7:52 AM AKST
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(CNN) – First, the good news, the death rate from cancer declined 2.4% among Americans from 2017 to 2018.

That’s a record drop, according to the American Cancer Society.

“In the 27 years of decline in the cancer mortality, we have not seen that substantial of a drop,” said Rebecca Siegel, a cancer epidemiologist with the organization.

The American Cancer Society’s annual report shows more than 3 million deaths have been averted over those nearly three decades.

Siegel said that’s because fewer people are smoking, cancers are being detected earlier and treatments have advanced.

But now, there’s a new concern when it comes to cancer rates and deaths: The impact of COVID-19.

“These effects will trickle in,” according to Siegel. “They won’t happen immediately, so we’re expecting to experience a secondary impact of the pandemic over the next decade in terms of cancer rates.”

That highlights the need for continued cancer screenings despite the pandemic.

And even though cancer death rates are down, there’s still work to be done.

“For example, lung cancer, there’s still a lot of opportunity because even though we’re making progress right now, lung cancer still causes more deaths than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined, and more than 80% of those deaths are related to smoking.”

The report also projects nearly 1.9 million new cancer cases in the United States this year and more than 608,000 American deaths.

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