Prostate cancer incidence, death rates fall

December 18, 2008

A new report from the nation's leading cancer organizations shows that, 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 prostate, breast, and other common cancers.

A new report from the nation’s leading cancer organizations shows that, 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 prostate, breast, and other common cancers.

But the news isn’t uniformly good: Incidence and death rates from bladder and kidney cancers in both sexes continue to rise.

Although cancer death rates have declined within the past 10 years, the current Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer marks the first time cancer incidence for both men and women have declined simultaneously (J Natl Cancer Inst 2008; 100:1672-94). Based on the long-term incidence trend, rates for all cancers decreased 0.8% per year from 1999 through 2005 for both sexes combined; rates decreased 1.8% per year from 2001 through 2005 for men and 0.6% per year from 1998 through 2005 for women.

According to the report, 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 lung cancer death rates among women.

“The drop in incidence seen in this year’s Annual Report is something we’ve been waiting to see for a long time,” said Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. “However, we have to be somewhat cautious about how we interpret it because changes in incidence can be caused not only by reductions in risk factors for cancer, but also by changes in screening practices.”

For men, prostate cancer incidence rates decreased by 4.4% per year from 2001 through 2005 after increasing by 2.1% per year from 1995 to 2001. In contrast, incidence rates increased for cancers of the kidney, liver, and esophagus, as well as for melanoma (2003-2005), non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and myeloma.

For women, incidence rates dropped for cancers of the breast, colon/rectum, uterus, ovary, cervix, and oral cavity, but increased for cancers of the bladder, kidney, lung, thyroid, pancreas, and brain/nervous system.