PhotoWhether it is due to better preventive care or advances in treatment, fewer Americans are dying of cancer.

An annual report compiled by a number of health organizations shows that overall cancer death rates continued to decline in the United States among both men and women, among all major racial and ethnic groups, and for all of the most common cancer sites, including lung, colon and rectum, female breast and prostate.

However, the news wasn't all good. Death rates continued to increase during the latest time period -- 2000 through 2009 -- for melanoma of the skin, among men only, and for cancers of the liver, pancreas and uterus.

On the rise

The special feature section on human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers shows that incidence rates are increasing for HPV-associated oropharyngeal and anal cancers and that vaccination coverage levels in the U.S. during 2008 and 2010 remained low among adolescent girls.

The report, covering the years 1975-2009, is co-authored by researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).

For 2000-2009, cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year among men and by 1.4 percent per year among women. Death rates among children up to 14 years of age also continued to decrease by 1.8 percent per year.

Common cancers on the decline

In general, fewer people are dying from the most common forms of cancer: lung, prostate, ovary, breast, colon and rectum, leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, kidney, stomach, myeloma, oral cavity and pharynx, and larynx.

However, deaths are increasing -- for both men and women -- from melanoma and cancer of the pancreas, liver and uterus.

“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer,” said John R. Seffrin, Ph.D., chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections. We must face these hurdles head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control cancer.”

Worldwide deaths

Worldwide, cancer is a leading cause of death, accounting for 7.6 million deaths in 2008, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Lung, stomach, liver, colon and breast cancer cause the most cancer deaths each year, according to the WHO data.

About 30 percent of cancer deaths are due to the five leading behavioral and dietary risks: high body mass index, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity, tobacco use and alcohol use.

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