Mortality rates from cancer are continuing their gradual decline in the U.S., thanks largely to a steady reduction in smoking and improvements in early detection and treatment. Over the past decade, cancer death rates dropped by 1.5 percent annually, slightly better than earlier improvements, according to the American Cancer Society’s 2017 report.
Overall the death rate has dropped 25 percent since 1991, which translates into more than 2 million fewer cancer deaths.
The decline has been driven by the most common cancers—lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal. For lung cancer, the death rate dropped 43 percent for men, and 17 percent for women. Death rates from breast cancer have dropped 38 percent, while prostate and colorectal cancers have dropped by half.
For all sites combined, men have a 20 percent higher cancer incidence and a 40 percent higher death rate than women. The gender gap largely reflects variations in cancer risk factors. For example, liver cancer is three times more common in men, partly because of their higher rate of smoking and hepatitis C infection as well as excess alcohol consumption. The largest sex disparities are for cancers of the esophagus, larynx, and bladder, for which incidence and mortality rates are about four times higher in men than in women. Melanoma incidence rates are about 60 percent higher in men, and the melanoma death rate is twice as high in men.
Also see 13 Ways to Cut Cancer Risk.