The death rate from cancer in the United States fell by a record 2.4 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.
The drop marks the second year in a row with a record decline in the cancer death rate, following a 2.2 percent drop from 2016 to 2017.
An improvement in lung cancer treatment helped drive the latest decline, the report said.
There is a fear, however, that progress was interrupted in 2020, given that the coronavirus pandemic has stressed the health care system and can interrupt care for other conditions.
“We anticipate that disruptions in access to cancer care in 2020 will lead to downstream increases in advanced stage diagnoses that may impede progress in reducing cancer mortality rates in the years to come,” said Rebecca Siegel, the lead author of the report.
Still, there has been significant progress in reducing cancer deaths in recent decades. There has been a total decrease in the cancer death rate of 31 percent from 1991 through 2018, the report said.
“An estimated 3.2 million cancer deaths have been averted from 1991 through 2018 due to reductions in smoking, earlier detection, and improvements in treatment,” the report said.
But cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., behind heart disease.
The American Cancer Society estimated that 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2021, and 608,570 Americans will die from cancer this year.