CANCER: 2.2% Annual Drop Led by Smoking Decline
An annual report on cancer shows a continuing downward trend in deaths and new cases, spotlighting gender and ethnic disparities and suggesting that the declining popularity of cigarette smoking is reaping clear health benefits. The report from the CDC, the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society shows the deaths and incidents of all cancers fell between 1990 and 1996. The incidence rates for all cancers fell at an average rate of 2.2% between 1992 and 1996, with a drop in lung cancer rates leading the way. Lung cancer is the most deadly form of cancer -- causing 28% of cancer-related deaths -- and the "[l]ung cancer rates historically have influenced overall cancer trends," the Los Angeles Times reports (Cimons, 4/21). Lung cancer cases and deaths between 1992 and 1996 decreased an average of 2.6% and 1.6% per year, respectively, for men, but for women the lung cancer rate increased 0.1% per year and the death rate climbed 1.4%. Experts say the data reflect the fact that men both started smoking and quitting earlier, with women about "a decade behind in stopping." Researchers are already seeing the "numbers improve for younger women, age 40 to 59." An editorial accompanying the report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said America "has turned the corner" on cancer (Foreman, Boston Globe, 4/21). John Seffrin, the CDC's director of chronic disease prevention, said, "The 1990s will be remembered as the decade when the wave crested and began to recede." However, he warned that if the current increase in youth smoking continues, "our hard-won successes will disappear in a puff of smoke."
Both the overall decrease in cancer rates and in lung cancer did not reach minority communities, especially African Americans -- "Blacks had the highest rates" of lung, prostate, colon and rectal cancer, which experts attribute to "differences in smoking, diet, access to medical care and frequency of exercise," the Washington Post reports (Brown, 4/21).
From Top to Bottom
The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that "Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana stacked up poorly" in the report, with lung cancer deaths exceeding the national average -- the three states also have higher-than-average smoking rates (Bonfield, 4/21). The Deseret News reports that Utah had the nation's lowest cancer rate, and ranks last in youth- and adult-smoking rates. State officials "have long credited low smoking rates in Utah to its large population" of Mormons, whose church "preaches against use of tobacco" (Davidson, 4/21). Click here for more information on the report.
In related news, the Financial Times reports that U.S. cigarette sales fell nearly 10% in the first quarter of 1999, "as price rises took their toll on consumption and retailers cut their inventory" despite "[h]eavy promotional spending" by the industry. Philip Morris Cos. reported a 9.6% drop in volume, with rival RJR Nabisco expected to report a 14% decrease (Edgecliff-Johnson, 4/21). And in a paper published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the National Institutes of Health called for a rise in the recommended daily allowances of vitamin C "from 60 milligrams to between 100 mg and 200 mg" because of the vitamin's cancer-preventing qualities. The National Academy of Sciences, which sets the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance, established the current guidelines in 1980, but there has been since an "explosion" of research, according to the NIH's Dr. Mark Levine ( AP/Arizona Daily Star, 4/21).