Treatments

Decline In Colorectal Cancer Rates Leads Overall Drop

In the wake of recent recommendations for less testing to find breast and cervical cancer, you might be wondering where screening is paying off the most. The answer: colorectal cancer.

The latest annual report on the state of cancer in the nation finds that death rates from colorectal cancer declined 3.9 percent in men and 3.4 percent in women in 2006 compared with 2005.

Between 1975 and 2000, deaths from colorectal cancer fell 26 percent. Most of the change—14 percentage points—was attributed to better screening and only 3 percent to better treatment. Even so, about 50,000 people are expected to die from colon and rectal cancer this year.

When doctors find signs of early colorectal cancer during screening colonoscopies, they can remove the dangerous tissue. John Seffrin, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said in a statement, "The extraordinary progress on colorectal cancer shows what can be achieved by coordinated and targeted efforts to apply existing knowledge to cancer control at the state and federal level."

Overall, the rate of cancer diagnoses fell by about 0.7 percent a year for the seven years ending in 2006. Cancer deaths, which the researchers said are the best measure of progress against the disease, declined 1.6 percent per year during the same period.

These annual cancer report card was compiled by researchers from the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The findings were published online in the medical journal Cancer.

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