A joint report on national cancer statistics recently revealed that rates of death in the United States from all cancers for men and women continued to decline between 2003 and 2007, the most recent reporting period available. This is according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, which is published by researchers from the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Cancer Society.
The report also finds that the combined overall rate of new cancer diagnoses for men and women decreased an average of slightly less than 1 percent per year for the same period. The drop in cancer death rates continues a trend that began in the early 1990s.
While this is obviously positive news, there is still a great deal of work left to be done. Alabama has one of the highest rates of cancer mortality in the nation. In 2010, Alabama was estimated to have had 23,640 new cases of cancer and 10,150 deaths from the disease, excluding basal- and squamous-cell skin cancers.
Take, for example, lung cancer. Alabama has one of the highest rates of this disease in the nation, yet we as a state are doing very little to address this. Lung cancer deaths in Alabama could be significantly reduced by enacting a statewide smoke-free environment while also substantially raising the tobacco tax. This would potentially be one of the most impactful sets of laws that our state legislature could enact.
We are proud that the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is at the forefront in leading the fight against cancer. As one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, we are able to contribute significantly to the discoveries that are helping to lower cancer rates. Our scientists are working every day to make our vision a reality. And that is a world where cancer is no longer a major public health problem.
This report is a step in the right direction. But the walk isn't over yet.
-Ed Partridge, M.D.