Doctors reach milestone in cancer deaths

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

The United States has reached a milestone: For the first time in more than 70 years, researchers announced this week, cancer deaths have declined.

In fact, the rates of death from the four most common cancers &8212; lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer &8212; have declined.

Why the change?

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Experts credit declines in smoking and the earlier detection and treatment of tumors.

The decline in numbers is small &8212; 369 fewer deaths. And health experts have been charting percentage drops in the cancer death rate for more than 10 years.

But the decline in the actual number of deaths marks the first time that declining rates have surpassed the increasing size of the U.S. population.

However small the numbers, the milestone is huge. It shows that what we&8217;re doing to combat cancer &8212; new treatments and new technology, efforts to encourage early detection and curbing behaviors that increase cancer risks &8212; are working.

But the fight isn&8217;t over. Right here in the Miss-Lou, cancer touches nearly every family. Local efforts to raise money for the American Cancer Society &8212; which encourages early detection and disourages risky behavior &8212; have begun in earnest as teams have formed for the annual Relay for life fundraiser.

And there is still time to get involved and be a part of a solution that is working to fight a deadly disease.