New Cancer Report Supports ACSH's Long Term Views: With Some Exceptions, Cancer Mortality Is on the Decline

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New York, NY March 1998. A study published in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, reports findings that confirm what the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has long held: that cancer rates are falling in the United States and that death rates from the disease are declining. ACSH's position on U.S. cancer rates was set forth in detail in a 1995 booklet, Update: Is There a Cancer Epidemic in the United States?

In its 1995 report ACSH concluded that, with a few exceptions primarily lung and AIDS-related cancers there has been little overall increase over the last 40 years in either the number of new cases of cancer reported or the number of cancer deaths. Furthermore, over the same period the number of deaths caused by many forms of cancer has actually decreased. And a combined report just released from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others confirms what ACSH scientists concluded nearly three years ago: that the incidence rate for all cancers combined is declining.

In addition, ACSH concluded in its 1995 report that better detection and screening were probably responsible for the fall in breast and prostate-cancer death rates a conclusion that Dr. Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute, echoed at a recent press conference. The Cancer article also supports previous ACSH statements, first, that rates of lung cancer incidence and mortality match nearly perfectly to the pattern of smoking in the United States; and, second, that the increase in melanoma mortality is caused mainly by the overexposure of fair-skinned individuals to the sun.

Most cancers are related to known lifestyle factors. Among the proven causes of cancer are tobacco use, poor diet, alcohol abuse, radiation, certain sexually transmitted diseases, certain reproductive patterns, and sunlight. "Chemicals" in our food and the environment "do not have a significant impact on overall cancer risk in the U.S," according to ACSH President Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan. "If environmental factors such as pesticides and industrial pollution played a prominent role in cancer causation,"Dr. Whelan adds, "cancer rates would be escalating. Instead, we are seeing decreases in death rates for most forms of cancer with notable exceptions such as smoking related lung cancer over the past 50 years."