CANCER: State Death Rates Declining
According to an annual report released by the California Cancer Registry, cancer deaths in California will drop 2.5% next year to 53,655 from 54,595 expected this year. Another survey conducted by the American Cancer Society predicts similar results for Orange County, where deaths from all types of cancer will drop 10% to 3,900 in 2000. Breast cancer deaths alone will drop 17% to 340. Tobacco-related cancers also will "decline sharply," but will "remain among the most difficult to treat." Lung cancer will cause almost 18,000 deaths statewide, more than prostate, breast, colon and rectal cancers combined. Statewide the five most common causes of predicted cancer deaths for women in the next year are: lung cancer (29%), breast (17%), colon and rectum (10%), leukemia and lymphoma (8%) and pancreas (6%). For men, the top five causes of cancer deaths in 2000 will be: lung cancer (29%), prostate (12%), colon and rectum (10%), leukemia and lymphoma (9%) and pancreas (5%). Diagnoses in California "will be up slightly in real terms, but the rate per 100,000 is expected to decline." In 2000, the predicted number of new diagnoses of all cancer types is 133,060, while in 1999 the number was 132,510. Only breast and prostate cancer are predicted to increase in sheer numbers in California. Prostate cancer is expected to rise from 18,860 cases in 1999 to 21,180 for next year.
Improved Treatment and Screening
Doctors have attributed the projected declines to improved treatment and increased screening. Today, more cancer cases are being diagnosed early and thus are easier to cure or postpone death. Regarding improved rates for breast cancer, Dr. Glen Justice, president of the American Cancer Society in Orange County, points to improved chemotherapy and the use of tamoxifen as well as annual mammograms that allow for early detection. He adds, "When you diagnose later, the mortality rate is higher." Experts also point out that the "numbers are even more impressive ... because the population has grown and is aging" (Warren, Los Angeles Times, 10/31).