The results of a new study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute indicate that both diagnoses and deaths from common cancers, such as lung, breast and prostate, are declining. The drops have been especially dramatic with prostate cancer. *However*, there is some reason to believe that fewer men are getting PSA tests, and this decline in screening may account for fewer diagnoses of PC. So we can’t break out the champagne just yet.

I just saw Dr. Larry Norton, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, being interviewed about this on the PBS Newshour. While he was happy about the lower cancer stats, he expressed concern that not enough money is being spent on cancer research. As an example, he stated that in the U.S., six times more money is spent on soft drinks than on finding a cure! We must do better.

Here are some excerpts from an article in the New York Times today (“New Cases of Cancer Decline in the U.S.”, by Roni Caryn Rabin, November 25, 2008):

“The incidence of new cancer cases has been falling in recent years in the United States, the first time such an extended decline has been documented, researchers reported Tuesday.

“Cancer diagnosis rates decreased by an average of 0.8 percent each year from 1999 to 2005, the last year for which data are available, according to an annual report by the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society and other scientific organizations.

“Death rates from cancer continued to decline as well, a trend that began some 15 years ago, the report also noted. It was published online in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“Each year that you see these steady declines it gives you more confidence that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Dr. John E. Niederhuber, director of the National Cancer Institute, who is not an author of the report. ‘This is not just a blip on the screen.’

“Death rates from cancer fell an average of 1.8 percent each year from 2002 to 2005, according to the new report. Although last year’s report said death rates dropped an average of 2.1 percent each year from 2002 to 2004, a modest 1 percent decline in 2005 lowered the average percentage for the period.

“The decline is primarily due to a reduction in death rates from certain common cancers, including prostate cancer and lung cancer in men, breast cancer in women and colorectal cancer in both sexes.

“The report attributes the reductions to adoption of healthier lifestyles and improved screening, as well as advances in treatment.

“. . . The incidence of prostate cancer declined by 4.4 percent a year from 2001 to 2005, after annual increases of 2.1 percent a year for several years, Dr. Jemal said. Yet prostate screening rates, too, have leveled off in recent years.’This might not be good news,’ Dr. Jemal said. ‘It’s always difficult to interpret the incidence rate.'”

“Christine Eheman, chief of the cancer surveillance branch at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was more optimistic about the decline in cancer diagnoses.

“’I do think it’s a good sign,’ Dr. Eheman said, ‘but I think we need to be very careful not to think we have this problem in any way beaten. We need to continue to do what we know works, and also find out why some cancers are not decreasing and not decreasing in certain populations.'”