US death rates are falling for many types of cancer, but not all, report says
U.S. death rates from cancer continued to decline from 2014 to 2018, driven mostly by drops in deaths from lung cancer and melanoma, according to a new report published Thursday.
But America’s collective lack of exercise and poor diet may have driven increases in certain other cancers, including pancreatic cancer and breast cancer, the report found.
Overall deaths from cancer declined 2.2% in men and 1.7% in women over four years. Declines were consistent across all ethnicities and races, the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer found.
Deaths from lung cancer and melanoma saw “accelerated” declines compared to other cancers. Researchers said the drop in lung cancer death rates drove the overall decline, and the melanoma decline represented a “substantial increase in survival for metastatic melanoma.”
“The declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum – from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors,” Karen Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, said in a news release.
The survival rate for advanced melanoma cancer has “substantially” improved since 2009, said Farhad Islami, lead author on the report and scientific director for cancer disparity research with the American Cancer Society.
“The two-year survival rate for melanoma, advanced melanoma in 2009 was about 27%, this increased to about 44% in 2014, which is about a 60% increase in the survival rate,” he said.
The report is put together by the American Cancer Society, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. All data cover a time period prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
But it wasn’t all good news. For prostate, colorectal and female breast cancers, declines in death rates slowed or disappeared, the report found. Death rates rose for brain and nervous system cancers and pancreatic cancers.
While death rates declined for all groups, cancer death rates were still higher among Black people than in White people, even though incidence rates were lower in Black people than in White people.
“The continuing disparity largely reflects a combination of multiple intertwined factors of tumor biology, stage at diagnosis, receipt of timely and effective treatment, and systemic discrimination in cancer care delivery,” the report reads. “Furthermore, largely owing to social determinants of health inequalities, Black persons and individuals of lower socioeconomic groups in general are more likely to have a higher exposure to some cancer risk factors and limited access to healthy food, safe places for physical activity, and evidence-based cancer preventive services.”
Cancer incidence rates increased for pancreatic, kidney and female breast cancers, which researchers suggested may be linked to a “staggering” rise in obesity and total sitting time.
“We see that most of the cancer types that are increasing, those are obesity-related cancers,” Islami said.
“We see that increasing trend for many of the obesity-related cancers in those younger ages,” he said. “So we think that at least a proportion of the increase in rates are attributable to increases in excess body weight and obesity.”
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US death rates from cancer continued to decline from 2014 to 2018, driven mostly by drops in deaths from lung cancer and melanoma, according to a new report published July 8.
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Unfortunately, Americans are notorious for not making the healthiest eating choices. Research has shown that eating healthy isn’t a series of diet-centered choices, but rather the aggregated results of small habits performed consistently. That’s where other cultures come in. Some places around the world such as Okinawa and Sardinia are famous for the longevity of their residents, and Americans can take some cues from their practices around eating, cooking and more. If you’re looking to shake up your routine, consider incorporating some of these healthy eating habits from other cultures around the world.
A 2016 report named Iceland the healthiest country in the world. While that measure was based on many factors, the country’s diet high in fresh fish likely contributed. People in Iceland consume an average of 250 grams of seafood per day, according to the United Nations, compared to 60 grams in the U.S, meaning Icelanders are getting lots more heart-health boosting omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association, omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and death from coronary heart disease.
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The same report ranked Singapore the second-healthiest country in the world, and the Bloomberg Global Health Index named Singapore the healthiest Asian country in 2017, in large part due to its extensive health care system. Another factor that could be contributing to its healthy rankings is the abundance of anti-inflammatory spices found in Singaporean cuisine, such as garlic, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. More than 10,000 studies have shown that turmeric, also known as the “golden spice,” has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticancer properties. While inflammation is a natural response and a necessary bodily defense, chronic inflammation can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
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Sweden, ranked as the third-healthiest country in the world, has made its national dietary guidelines as simple to follow as a traffic light. The country’s National Food Agency encourages Swedes to adhere to three ideas in equal parts: green means to eat more vegetables, yellow signals to switch to grains and red means to eat less red meat. A simple, balanced approach like this is easier to follow in the long run. Sweden also regularly ranks among the happiest countries in the world, partly due to low levels of stress, which can lead to headaches, shortness of breath and cardiovascular damage. There is a link between how we feel and what we eat, so managing stress also factors into healthy eating habits.
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Many Americans are familiar with the “food pyramid” introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture, but perhaps it's time to give a different perspective a spin. Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recommend an inverted-pyramid style of food consumption, with whole grains on the top, and sugar and sweets on the bottom, with the whole thing powered by regular exercise on an axis of hydration, creating a “spinning top.” Japan is home to one of the densest populations of centenarians in the world: the island of Okinawa. Residents here also have less cancer, heart disease and dementia than Americans. They rely on fresh food, mostly vegetables, to surpass the lifespan of most of the world.
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While the “French paradox” — the idea that consuming large amounts of saturated fats like cheese can be offset by red wine at every meal — is actually too good to be true, Americans can still learn from French food habits. The large portion sizes common at American restaurants and dinner tables have been linked to unhealthy weight gain, while portions in France are smaller and people spend more time eating their meals. To savor your food and enjoy mealtimes, consider setting the table with smaller plates and eating lunch away from your desk.
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While France’s famous fermented dairy products like cheese and yogurt resulted from that population’s proximity to livestock, the microbial preservation practices of Asian populations were used more on grains and vegetables. The bacteria in fermented plant products contribute to healthy gut bacteria and ease inflammatory responses in the body, and in South Korea, kimchi, fermented cabbage and radish, is served at every meal. A 2017 study found that South Korea will likely have the highest worldwide life expectancy by 2030. Women are expected to live on average to the age of 91, while men are expected to live until age 84.
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In 2018, Spain joined Japan and Singapore on a list of countries expected to exceed an 85-year life span by 2040, in part due to adherence to the Mediterranean diet. This well-known diet emphasizes whole grains, fresh produce and little red meat. According to the UN, Spain consumes 300 grams of vegetables per capita per day, while on the other hand, Americans consume twice as much red meat as the global average. To boost your fruit and veggie intake, the American Heart Association recommends keeping a bowl of fruit handy and visible for snacking and adding a handful of frozen peas to rice or pasta.
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Sardinia’s men are some of the longest-living in the world because they are shepherds who regularly take long, gentle walks of 5 miles a day or more, on average. Their diet contains a lot of whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, and meat is only eaten occasionally. Beans, from soybeans to chickpeas to black beans, are a cornerstone of diets in the longest-living places in the world, and legume consumption is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. A 2004 study of people aged 70 and older across five countries around the world found that for every two tablespoons of beans a day that an individual consumed, they reduced their risk of dying by 7-8%.