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In the past three years, the number of cancer survivors in the US, defined as people alive who have been diagnosed with cancer, increased by more than one million. There are 18 million survivors in the US as of January and that number is expected to rise to 26 million by 2040.
The information was revealed in a new report from the American Association for Cancer Research, noting that for all cancers combined, the five-year overall survival rate increased from 49% in the mid-1970s to almost 70% between 2011 and 2017, the most recent years for which data is available.
The overall age-adjusted death rate from cancer continues to fall, with reductions between 1991 and 2019 translating into nearly 3.5 million deaths averted, the association said.
Declines in smoking as well as improvements in early cancer detection and treatment are driving the change, according to the AACR’s 2022 Cancer Progress Report, released Wednesday.
Dr. Lisa Coussens, president of the association, said in a statement that part of the credit is due to an investment in research, both for treatments and understanding the disease.
“Targeted therapies, immunotherapy and other new therapeutic approaches that are applied clinically stem from fundamental discoveries in basic science,” he said. “Investing in cancer science, as well as supporting science education at all levels, is absolutely essential to fuel the next wave of discovery and accelerate progress.”
40% of cancer cases in the US are attributable to risk factors
Although nearly 3.5 million cancer deaths were averted between 1991 and 2019, more than 600,000 people in the US are still expected to die of cancer 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 says.
About 40% of cancer cases in the US are attributable to preventable risk factors, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating a poor diet, not getting enough exercise, and being obeseaccording to the report.
But there are also ongoing 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.
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