US cancer deaths continue to decline

Good news for Americans as US cancer deaths continue their downward trend. We may not have found a “cure for cancer”, but we’re making real inroads in more effective life-extending treatments, early screening efforts, and less damaging responses.

The collaborative multi-institute effort, the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, shows improvement across all demographics. Advances were recorded across all ages, sexes, and ethnicities. Adult men showed the best improvement with a decrease in new cancer reports, although another study shows slowing and mild reversals in late-stage prostate cancer discovery.

While the report goes into detail regarding some of the most prevalent cancers, including breast, colorectal, lung, and melanoma/skin cancer, as well as digging into the statistics for different ages, sexes, and ethnicities, it avoids definitive statements and raises many questions. The underlying causes for trends, including the marked differences between the different demographic groups, are not well understood.

Screening programs and catching cancers in nascent and early stages are credited for some of the improvements, while lifestyle factors such as obesity are tapped for some increases in death rates. However, the refrain continues to be that more research is needed. Research and report publication is necessarily a slow process, and this particular report reviews data up to 2015, missing more recent trends.

For Americans with loved ones with a cancer diagnosis, currently battling cancer, or with heightened genetic or lifestyle risk factors, such reports and research are promising but distressingly slow in making their way to the public. Fortunately, much of the research and even medical trials can be accessed with a little research.

The internet is making it easier than ever to stay on top of the latest developments. Oncotarget is an online journal that collects scientific research. While it covers a variety of medical and scientific peer-reviewed reports and research, it has a special focus on oncology. Cancer research and developments, along with other medical research, is then published online and across social media channels.

Concerned Americans can follow news on cancer research including new discoveries, trends and more established risk awareness, clinical trials, drug and treatment developments, and other information via online resources. In some cases, they may be able to connect with teams and report writers very directly, while in others, the earliest access may come through resources that collate and publish research in online journals. However, social media channels with a cancer research focus can be one of the most accessible ways to stay up to date, with the continuous, of-the-moment nature of the feed that’s perfect for new releases.

Of course, there are more reasons to follow developments in cancer research than for personal health interests. Research developments can have a real bearing on the future of medical, pharmaceutical, charitable, and scientific organizations. Stock traders, investors, and other professionals with an interest in the future of these organizations could benefit from watching reports and research at the earliest possible stage. Advances in cancer treatments could mean industry pivots and changing fortunes.

In fact, US cancer research and findings are international news. The large, diverse population and preponderance of leading institutes offers insights that are used as a jumping-off point for researchers around the world. Trends in America are contrasted against local results for further insights. And the impact of new drugs and treatments can send ripples across international boundaries.

Americans can rejoice that progress is being made on decreasing incidences and impact of cancers, but it’s too soon to relax. More understanding of the effects and the most effective treatments are needed. While this progress is encouraging, cancer is still a frightening diagnosis. Early screening programs are a critical element in reducing mortality and reducing lifestyle factors that contribute to cancer development and are wise on an individual and systemic basis. 

Individuals can stay on top of the latest recommendations to implement improvements in their own lives by following researchers or research collators online and should aim to follow developments as close to the source as possible. News reporting can often oversimplify, dilute, or falsely interpret research, resulting in recommendations that may be misleading, damaging, or simply ineffective.

While demographic-based data is encouraging for the populations facing the least risk and having the most improvement in mortality rates, there is no exempt population. Men, women and children of all ages and ethnicities face cancer diagnoses, albeit at varying rates. More research, greater understanding, increased funding and access to early screening programs, and improved medications and treatments will be critical to reduce the threat.