ATLANTA, Ga. (NBC) – More people than ever are winning the fight against cancer. That’s one of the key takeaways from the American Cancer Society’s annual report on cancer rates and trends.
But within the report, the news is mixed. While there’s been a sharp uptick in survival rates of lung cancer, progress against some other forms of cancer is stalling.
The news represents a new milestone on the cancer-fighting front death rates declined 29% in 26 years.
According to a new report by the American Cancer Society, that figure includes a 2.2% decrease from 2016 to 2017, the largest one year decline of cancer deaths ever reported.
Dr. William Cance, chief medical and scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, said, “It’s highly significant we’re seeing such a tremendous drop which means we’re getting better at treating certain cancers.”
Mortality rates of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths, are down significantly by 4%-per-year over the past five years. Melanoma death rates saw an ever-sharper decline.
Dr. Cance said, “We have drugs that stimulate patients’ bodies to kill their tumor cells.”
Overall, the American Cancer Society estimates nearly three million lives have been saved, roughly the population of Chicago.
“It means we’re making good progress in reducing the cancer burden,” Dr. Cance said.
But the news isn’t all positive. Health experts note white cancer patients have slightly higher five-year survival rates than African Americans and progress has slowed when it comes to colon, breast and prostate cancer.
“We have a ways to go,” Dr. Cance said. “We still need to develop better therapeutics, better diagnostics.”
They encourage individuals to do their part with smart lifestyle choices, including regular exercise, cancer screenings, limiting alcohol and stopping—or better yet, never starting—smoking.
The American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 1.8 million new cancer cases this year and more than 600,000 deaths.