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Cancer Surpasses Heart Disease as Leading Cause of Death in California

Cancer now is the leading cause of death in 22 states, including California, according to a new study. It’s also the leading cause of death in certain groups of people, including Latinos, Asians, and adults 40 to 79.

Details of Study
The study—by researchers from the American Cancer Society—was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. For the study, researchers examined mortality data from 1930 to 2012 from the National Center for Health Statistics. The researchers also reviewed data from:
• CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries; and
• The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program (Siegel et al., CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, January 2016).

National Findings
According to the study, death rates for cancer and heart disease both have been declining for about 25 years. However, the mortality rate for heart disease has fallen at a faster rate. The heart disease death rate has fallen by 46% since 1991, while the cancer death rate has fallen by 23%. The study attributed the falling cancer death rate to:
• Advances in cancer detection, treatment and prevention; and
• Declining smoking rates.
Still, cancer became the leading cause of death in 22 states including Alaska, Arizona, California,Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The cancer society predicts there will be nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases this year, and nearly 600,000 deaths.

California Findings
Between 2008 and 2012, the cancer incidence rate among California men was 485.6 individuals per 100,000. In comparison, the incidence rate was 394.8 per 100,000 among women.
Meanwhile, the cancer death rate during that time period was:
• 183.4 individuals per 100,000 among men; and
• 135.3 individuals per 100,000 among women.
Lung and bronchus cancer had the highest death rate among men, at 43.7 per 100,000. Breast cancer was the leading cause of cancer-related death among women, at 122.1 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the study projected that there will be 173,200 new cancer cases in California in 2016, the highest number of expected cases of any state.
According to the study, the most likely new cases of cancer in California this year will be:
• Female breast cancer, with 26,730 new cases; and
• Lung and bronchus cancer, with 18,140 new cases
(CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, January 2016).

Colorectal Cancer is Increasing in People Under Age Fifty

In a report published this month in the journal Cancer, researchers analyzed U.S. statistics and found that about one in seven colon cancer patients is younger than 50 years old, the age at which current guidelines recommend screening begins. According to the study, of 258,024 colon cancer patients diagnosed from 1998–2011, 37,847 were under the age of 50. At nearly 15 percent, this early-onset population has increased notably over the past several decades.

Interestingly, younger patients were more likely to be diagnosed in advanced stages of the disease, when the cancer spread to distant organs. Researchers speculate that this pattern could be attributed to incorrect initial diagnoses due to misconceptions about colon cancer, the lack of symptoms with which the disease typically presents, and significantly lower screening rates.

In a press release, Samantha Hendren, MD, MPH, lead author of the study noted, “This study is really a wakeup call to the medical community that a relatively large number of colorectal cancers are occurring in people under 50. Also, people with a positive family history for colorectal cancer (in first-degree relatives such as parents or siblings) and some others who are at higher risk should begin screening earlier than 50.