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Melanoma Up, Other Cancers Down

By December 1, 2008

Last week, the big "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer" was released. As usual, it contained some good news and some bad news.

The good news is that cancer death rates for both sexes declined about 1.8% per year from 2002 through 2005, almost double the 1.1% per year decrease seen from 1993 through 2002. And for the first time in the 10-year history of the report, incidence rates for all cancers combined decreased, falling by 0.8% per year from 1999 to 2005. Researchers credit declines in smoking for much of this progress, but new early detection methods and more effective drugs have also played an important role. Finally, the report contained the encouraging news that the rate of new diagnoses (among men only) dropped 1.8% per year between 2001 and 2005. Since prevention is obviously better than treatment, that's good news indeed!

Unfortunately, the incidence increased for cancers of the kidney, liver, and esophagus, as well as for myeloma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and melanoma. (Note that the report doesn't include analysis of nonmelanoma skin cancers like basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma.) Melanoma increased a whopping 7.7% per year from 2003-2005. If there are any silver linings to that statistic, it is these: 1) the death rate due to melanoma was essentially stable, and 2) the increasing incidence is partly due to better detection methods -- and earlier detection of melanoma greatly increases the chance for a cure.

Here's hoping that we can someday soon turn the tide on skin cancers like melanoma, which can unfortunately still be characterized as epidemic.


Jemal A, et al. "Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2005, Featuring Trends in Lung Cancer, Tobacco Use, and Tobacco Control." J Natl Cancer Inst 2008 Nov 25. 29 November 2008.

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