U.S. cancer deaths declined for the second year in a row in 2004, but there are worrisome signs that progress could falter, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society.
Deaths fell by 3,014 following a decline of 369 deaths in 2003. While the number of cancer deaths in women increase slightly in 2003, the number fell for both sexes in 2004, the first time since the government began keeping death statistics in the 1930s.
The death rate for all cancers combined has dropped for 12 consecutive years, a total of 13.6 percent from 1991 to 2004. But that drop was smaller than the population growth for the first 10 years, so that an actual decline in the number of deaths did not occur until 2003.
Among other crucial factors, declines in adult and youth tobacco smoking have leveled off and mammography is still not reaching a third of the population at risk.
Nearly a third of all cancer deaths this year will be a direct result of smoking, the report said, and another third are attributable to poor nutrition, obesity and physical inactivity.