The latest figures released by the American Cancer Society reflect a 25 percent reduction in deaths from cancer since 1991, hailed as the peak year for cancer mortalities.
While cancer rates remain relatively steady, patients are living longer with better disease screening and treatment options, the organization noted in its report, where it estimates almost 1.7 million cancer diagnoses as well as 600,000 deaths from the dreaded illness this year in the United States.
"From 1991 to 2014, the overall cancer death rate dropped 25 percent, translating to approximately 2,143,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak," reads part of the report, published annually by the ACS.
Obamacare And Cancer In Minorities
Dr. Otis Brawley, the group’s chief medical officer, deemed the continuing decrease in cancer deaths a “powerful sign” of the potential to slash the disease’s fatal toll. Following heart disease, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the country, with around 40 percent of males and 37 percent of females expected to receive a cancer diagnosis at any point in their life.
The report credits the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, dubbed as Obamacare, for helping improve the numbers especially among ethnic minorities. Over the last 30 years, for instance, the five-year relative survival rate for all cancers has climbed 24 percentage points among blacks and 20 points in whites.
While cancer deaths in 2014 were 15 percent higher in blacks than whites, the increased access to care due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is seen to help narrow the racial gap. From 2010 to 2015, the number of uninsured blacks was slashed to half, while that for Hispanic people dipped from 31 to 16 percent.
A study from September last year, getting data from a Californian cancer center, also revealed that more Hispanic women received more breast cancer treatment and enrolled in clinical trials following the implementation of Obamacare. The increase, according to the researchers, could be attributed to many patients' newfound insured status.
Obamacare, which the incoming Trump administration has promised to repeal, requires insurers to shoulder the full cost of many cancer screening methods, from colonoscopies to mammograms. So far it has provided health insurance to 20 million without prior coverage.
Cancer Screening As Key
The report also touts the importance of cancer screening, and the assistance of targeted therapies that include monoclonal antibodies, or engineered immune proteins.
The threefold increase in colonoscopy use in adults 50 years and above, for example, is believed key in helping drive down colorectal cancer deaths.
On the downside, decreasing PSA testing among men, however, is seen to primarily help drive down new prostate cancer diagnoses — an effect currently being investigated. Treatment advances are also considered slow in the case of lung and pancreatic cancers, which are malignant conditions that continue to be identified often only once they have reached an advantaged stage.
Uterine cancer mortalities are also rising at a 2 percent annual rate during the period.
In 2017, the expected top four cancer killers are lung cancer, colorectal cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.