More people in the United States are surviving cancer than ever before, according to a new report from the American Association for Cancer Research.
Over the past three years, the number of cancer survivors in the United States—defined as living people diagnosed with cancer—has increased by more than a million. There were 18 million survivors in the U.S. as of January, and the number is expected to increase to 26 million by 2040, the association said.According to the report, the United States has only 3 million Cancer survivor in 1971.
For all cancers, the five-year overall survival rate increased from 49% in the mid-1970s to nearly 70% between 2011 and 2017, the most recent years for which data are available.
Age-adjusted overall cancer death rates continued to decline, with the decline between 1991 and 2019 meaning nearly 3.5 million deaths were averted, the association said.
Reductions in smoking and improvements in early detection and treatment of cancer are driving the change, according to the 2022 AACR Cancer Progress Report released Wednesday.
In a statement, Dr. Lisa Coussens, president of the association, said part of the credit goes to investment in research — including treating and understanding disease.
“New treatments for targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and other clinical applications all stem from fundamental discoveries in basic science,” she said. “Investment in cancer science, and support for science education at all levels, is absolutely necessary to drive the next wave of discovery and accelerate progress.”
For example, between Aug. 1 and July 31, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved eight anti-cancer treatments, expanding 10 previously approved drugs to treat the new disease, Coussens said in a Wednesday news conference. of cancer types and approved two diagnostic imaging agents.
Increasing funding for cancer research is the cornerstone of President Joe Biden’s relaunch of the Cancer Moon Shot.
Biden, who lost his son to brain cancer, said this month that his goal is to cut the cancer death rate in the U.S. by at least half within the next 25 years.
“Cancer doesn’t differentiate between red and blue. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Beating cancer is something we can all do together,” said Biden, who initially led the initiative as vice president under Obama .
The new report urges Congress to fully fund and support Biden’s goal of “ending cancer as we know it.”
“The rekindled cancer moonshot will provide an important framework for improving cancer prevention strategies; increasing cancer screening and early detection; reducing cancer disparities; and introducing new life-saving treatments for cancer patients,” the report said, adding “These actions will transform cancer care, improve survival rates, and bring life-saving treatments to the millions of people whose lives are affected by cancer.”
Although nearly 3.5 million cancer deaths were averted between 1991 and 2019, more than 600,000 cancer deaths are expected in the United States this year, according to the association.
“In the United States alone, the number of new cancer cases diagnosed each year is expected to reach nearly 2.3 million by 2040,” the report said.
About 40 percent of cancer cases in the U.S. can be attributed to preventable risk factors such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, insufficient exercise and obesity, the report said.
But there are also persistent challenges, such as health disparities affecting racial and ethnic minorities and barriers to health care, such as limited health insurance coverage and living in rural areas.
In a taped statement played at the news conference, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams said she learned “health care in America is not yet a human right” after her mother died of cancer.
“We have two health care systems in this country: one for those who can afford preventive services and quality treatment, and one for everyone else,” said Democrat Williams of Georgia Say.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade is also expected to impact cancer care by limiting health care options for pregnant women with cancer, the report said.
“With the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which ended the constitutional right to abortion, there is uncertainty surrounding how specific cancer treatments can lead to pregnancy termination. This uncertainty may have would prevent some doctors from prescribing medication or providing other health services in a timely manner,” the report said.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on cancer in the United States, with nearly 10 million breast, colorectal and prostate cancer screenings missed in 2020.
The report makes recommendations to build on progress and regain momentum.
“Progress towards ending cancer means more birthdays, more Christmases, more graduations and everyday moments for families around the world,” Williams said.