Ex-smokers get credit for record drop in cancer death rates

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Opinion

January 14, 2020 - 10:24 AM

Cancer remains a dreaded diagnosis, but there’s heartening news. America is showing great progress against some of the most deadly forms of the disease, particularly lung cancer and the aggressive skin cancer melanoma.

Researchers have reported the largest-ever one-year decline in the U.S. cancer death rate, a drop of 2.2% between 2016 and 2017, according to the American Cancer Society. The rate has fallen resoundingly — nearly 30% — from 1991 to 2017, affecting nearly 3 million lives. Anyone who lost a loved one to cancer in that quarter-century can applaud this progress.

What drove the improvement? Both personal choices and medical advances contributed, researchers say. Lung cancer is by far the biggest killer of the cancers, and smoking — which is also implicated in other types of cancer — has been declining for decades. There are powerful new ways to diagnose and treat lung cancer, and even patients with advanced disease are living longer. “It’s an exciting time,” Dr. Jyoti Patel, a Northwestern University lung cancer expert, told The Associated Press.

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