TUESDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 14 million people
in the United States, or one in 23, are now cancer survivors.
In comparison, only 3 million people, or one in 69, were cancer
survivors in 1971, according to the third annual cancer progress
report, issued Tuesday, by the American Association for Cancer
While there are increasing numbers of cancer patients because
some cancers are more common with age, "there is a large increase
in the number of survivors," said AACR President Dr. Charles
Sawyers. "That's a return on our investment in cancer
Sawyers, who chaired the report writing committee, is also an
investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and chair of
the human oncology and pathogenesis program at the Memorial
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York City.
Other noteworthy advances, Sawyers said, is the approval of 11
new anticancer drugs in the past year alone, which he called
"amazing." Also of note is the evolution of immune system modifiers
for cancer, such as drugs for certain lymphomas and multiple
myeloma, that rev up the immune system to fight the cancer.
"Science is paying off, finally," he said.
From 1990 through 2012, more than 1 million lives have been
saved from cancer, according to the report.
"The progress is astonishing," said Dr. Cy Stein, a distinguished professor and chair of medical oncology and experimental therapeutics at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif.
"Things have been getting better. That is the truth of this report," said Stein, who is also deputy director of clinical research at City of Hope. He was not involved in the report.
Among the successes noted in the report are that the five-year
survival rates for women diagnosed with invasive breast cancer have
increased from 75 percent in the mid-1970s to 90 percent or more
For children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, the
five-year survival rates have increased from 58 percent to 90
percent or greater during the same time period.
But the progress has not been uniform for all cancers. For
instance, the five-year survival rates for some cancers, including
the aggressive brain cancer known as glioblastoma multiforme, as
well as liver, lung and pancreatic cancers, have not improved much
over more than 40 years, with survival rates of 4 percent to 16
Despite the progress, more than 1.6 million Americans are
expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and more than
580,000 deaths are expected from cancer in 2013. Experts say the
number will increase dramatically in the next two decades, largely
due to the aging of the population, and cancer becoming more common
Most cancers are detected in those age 65 and above, and this
part of the population is growing quickly.
However, up to 50 percent of cancer deaths are related to
preventable causes, including smoking, being obese or overweight,
being sedentary and eating a poor diet, the report noted. "The
average person would be surprised by how much cancer is
preventable, " Sawyers said.
While smoking's link to cancer is well known, he said that many
people remain unaware of the obesity-cancer connection. Obesity
increases the risk for many cancers, such as esophageal,
colorectal, endometrial, kidney and pancreatic cancers, and breast
cancers in women past menopause.
Continued progress is jeopardized by the slashing of research
funds, the report said. Earlier this year, the U.S. National
Institutes of Health's budget was cut by $1.6 billion -- or more
than 5 percent.
While the report covers a lot of ground, City of Hope's Stein
said the authors didn't emphasize an important fact: "That people
with cancer live better."
"A lot of times, even those with advanced cancer on therapy are able to engage in everyday activities," Stein said. "A lot of that is [due to] the research that we did a long time ago that has been paying off for a long time."
To learn more about cancer prevention through living healthy,
American Cancer Society.
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