Cancer epidemic? Not

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Last week ACSH reported on the recent finding that beginning in 2003, lung cancer death rates in women decreased for the first time. But another aspect to this good-news story, which we did not address, is that with few exceptions, overall cancer incidence (and death) rates have also been declining over the period from 2003 to 2007.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, an annual report by the American Cancer Society, the CDC, The National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR) compiled cancer incidence and mortality data from 1975 through 2007. They found that overall cancer incidence has decreased by 1 percent annually between 2003 and 2007 and by 0.8 percent prior to 2003. Overall cancer death rates, however, have continued to decline for both males and females. Childhood cancer incidence rates, on the other hand, increased by 0.6 percent between 1992 and 2007, but death rates have continued to decline. Certain cancers, though — such as melanoma, pancreatic and kidney cancer for both sexes, liver cancer in men and thyroid cancer in women — have increased, albeit slightly.

“While a few cancers are increasing, the overall numbers give the lie to the oft-heard tales of ‘a cancer epidemic,’” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Meanwhile, cancer death rates continue their dramatic decline because of early diagnosis and better treatment options. And as we’ve observed over and over again, although this important news was noted by hundreds of media outlets nationwide, The New York Times (predictably) ignored it, as counter to its mantra of doom. They thought news about Charlie Sheen’s antics was more important. So much for ‘all the news that fits, it prints.’”

ACSH’s Dr. Josh Bloom adds that this update should reassure those who are worried about consumer product chemicals such as BPA and phthalates, preservatives and food colorings, leading to increased cancer rates. “If we are poisoning the world (and ourselves) with cancer-causing agents, wouldn’t you expect to see cancer rates rising rather than falling? These pseudo-claims and scares we hear every other day just don’t add up.”