The rate at which new cancers are diagnosed and the death rate from the disease have both decreased in the United States for the first time in 10 years, according to a report published Tuesday by the National Cancer Institute.
"For the first time since the report was first issued in 1998, both incidence and death rates for all cancers combined are decreasing for both men and women, driven largely by declines in some of the most common types of cancer," said the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, which tracks trends in the illness from 1975-2005.
Although the cancer mortality rate has been declining since the report was first published 10 years ago, what researchers found noteworthy in this year's report was the fact that the cancer diagnosis rate also fell.
"The decline in both incidence and death rates for all cancers combined is due in large part to declines in the three most common cancers among men (lung, colon/rectum and prostate) and the two most common cancers among women (breast and colon/rectum) combined with a leveling off of lunch cancer death rates among women," the report said.
The rate at which new cancers were diagnosed fell by 0.8 percent per year from 1999-2005 for both men and women, while the death rate from cancer declined 1.8 percent from 2002 to 2005.
The continuing fall in mortality from cancer reflected "gains in prevention, early detection and treatment," said Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS).
But large differences still exist in cancer death rates by state and region, the report found.
It cited as an example the lung cancer death rate, which among men in California dropped more than twice as much as it did in many midwestern and southern states in 2005.
Among women, lung cancer death rates increased in 13 states and decreased in only three between 1996 and 2005, the report said, urging tougher tobacco control programs.
The 13 states where lung cancer death rates for women are on the rise have "higher percentages of adult female smokers, low excise taxes and local economies that are traditionally dependent on tobacco farming and production," it said.
"We can see that in areas of the country where smoking and tobacco use are entrenched in daily life, men and women continue to pay a price with higher incidence and death rates from many types of cancer, urging a greater commitment by officials to implementing tobacco control programs," said Betsy Kohler, head of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).
Cigarette smoking accounts for around 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, and lung cancer for eight in 10 smoking-related cancer deaths, according to the US Surgeon General's report.
Cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, bladder, pancreas, liver, kidney and uterine cervix are also caused by smoking, as is a form of leukemia, the Surgeon General's report said.
The annual cancer report will be published on the Internet on Tuesday, and will appear in the December 2 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.