Every year, the American Cancer Society (ACS) compiles data from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others, to inform the public about the estimated cancer statistics for that year. The current year’s assessment had just been released – with good news. While more than 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer this year, incidence rates either held stable or decreased in the past year, continuing a trend that started in the late 1990s, and more than half of them will survive their disease. The new study emphasizes the importance of issues, such as fertility, on the many survivors of cancer.
Unfortunately, cancer success and survival rates have not affected all segments of the population equally, as we’ve previously discussed. The ACS paper, “Cancer statistics, 2011: The impact of eliminating socioeconomic and racial disparities on premature cancer deaths,” also highlights disparities in cancer death rates. The analysis looked at deaths across education levels, which is frequently used as a measure of socioeconomic status. It found that cancer deaths in people a high-school education or less were more than twice as high as those for patients with a college diploma. In younger people especially, these premature deaths from cancer have a greater economic and social impact, as they are loosing more years off their lives than older people.
In addition, racial disparities were also found in these survival rates. Across all cancers African American men were 33% more likely to die from their cancer than white men. At the recent Cancer Survivorship and Sexual Health Symposium held in Washington DC, Jesse Parker, Chairman of Health and Wellness of 100 Black Men, stated that increasing cancer screenings could have a great effect on these statistics. In addition, African American women have a 17% higher death rate than white women, despite having a 6% lower incidence rate. As in men, decreased screening, delayed diagnosis, and treatment may also cause this disparity. Interestingly, other ethnic groups have lower incidence rates than Caucasians except for some cancers that are related to infections, such as human papillomavirus or hepatitis, and behaviors, such as smoking. According to the ACS, the elimination of these educational and racial disparities could save the lives of more than 60,000 people per year.
These new statistics also identified the probability of developing invasive cancers before the age of 40. In 2011, this means that 1 in 69 men and 1 out of every 47 women will be diagnosed with cancer. For this population especially, fertility is an important area of survivorship.