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Cancer survival rates growing in U.S., expected to reach 19 million people by 2024

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Cancer is claiming fewer lives in the United States today then it did five years ago and a recent study claims that trend is expected to continue over at least the next decade.

The study also claims the number of cancer survivors in the U.S. will grow to almost 19 million by 2024.

The report, done by the American Cancer Association, states that there are currently 14.5 million cancer survivors living in the country.

"The number of Americans with a history of cancer is growing due to the aging and growth of the population, as well as improving survival rates," the report states. "The three most common cancers among male survivors are prostate (43 percent), colon and rectum (9 percent), and melanoma (8 percent). Among female survivors, the most common cancers are breast (41 percent), uterine corpus (8 percent), and colon and rectum (8 percent)."

The report cites several reasons for the growing number of cancer survivors including better screening efforts which help detect cancer sooner; better treatments that have reduced the death rates for many common cancers; as well as the fact our aging population is living longer, increasing the chances of getting a cancer diagnosis later in life.

"It's really exciting news," said Dr. Kevin Oeffinger, director of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's Adult Long-Term Follow-Up Program, about the report's findings. "We actually are seeing more cancer survivors today than we had anticipated a few years ago."

The report also pointed out that the more aggressive treatments used for childhood cancers years ago, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, led to an increased risk of those survivors developing new cancers years and even decades later. Researchers found that roughly 10 percent of childhood cancer survivors developed another cancer over a 30-year period.

The breakdown on the 19 million cancer survivors expected by 2024 is that 9.3 million will be males and 9.6 million will be females. With regard to the 14.5 million cancer survivors living in the country today, the state of California currently has the most with almost 1.7 million living there today. Florida is next with approximately 1.2 million and New York is third with just under 970,000. 

Most cancer survivors, some 64 percent, were diagnosed 5 or more years ago, while 15 percent  were diagnosed 20 or more years ago, the report says. And about half of cancer survivors, or 46 percent, are older than 70, while only about 5 percent are younger than 40.

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