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U.S. Pancreatic Cancer Death Rates Increasing in White Adults, Decreasing in Black Adults

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Key Points

  • Pancreatic cancer death rates have increased in white women since the mid-1990s and in white men since the late 1990s.
  • Pancreatic cancer death rates have decreased in black women and men since 1990.

In a study reported in Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Jiemin Ma, PhD, MHS, and colleagues from the American Cancer Society investigated trends in pancreatic cancer death rates in the United States between 1970 and 2009. They found that death rates have been increasing in white men and women since the mid- to late 1990s, whereas rates in black men and women have been decreasing.

Study Details

In the study, annual percentage changes in pancreatic cancer death rates were calculated for 1970 to 2009 by sex and race among U.S. adults aged 35 to 84 years using mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Cancer Institute’s Joinpoint Regression Program. Age-period-cohort modeling was performed to identify changes in cohort and period effects.

Death Rates in Whites and Blacks

In white women, pancreatic cancer death rates increased by 0.4% per year from 1970 to 1984 from 14.6 to 15.3/100,000 population, remained stable between 1984 and 1998, and then increased by 0.5% per year through 2009 to 15.9/100,000. In white men, rates decreased by 0.7% per year from 24.8/100,000 population in 1970 to 20.4/100,000 in 1995 and then increased by 0.4% per year through 2009 to 21.5/100,000.

In black women, rates increased by 1.3% per year between 1970 and 1989 from 18.3 to 23.1/100,000 and then decreased by 0.5% per year through 2009 to 20.9/100, 000. In black men, rates increased by 0.5% per year between 1970 and 1989 from 29.0 to 31.3/100,000 and then decreased by 0.9% per year through 2009 to 27.5/100, 000.

Deviation Analysis

Analysis of period deviations by sex and race showed that the slope of period deviations for white women has significantly increased since the late 1990s (slope difference = 0.006, P < .001). In white men, the slope of period deviations changed in the late 1980s and late 1990s, with the increase since the late 1990s being significant (slope difference = 0.005, P < .001).

Reflecting the relatively small number of deaths, there were large variations in period deviations for black women and men. Increased period deviations in the late 1990s were seen in both black women (slope difference 0.002, P = .560) and black men (slope difference 0.003, P = .365), but the changes were not statistically significant and were smaller than those observed in whites.

The investigators concluded, “In the United States, whites and blacks experienced opposite trends in pancreatic cancer death rates between 1970 and 2009 that are largely unexplainable by known risk factors. This study underscores the needs for urgent action to curb the increasing trends of pancreatic cancer in whites and for better understanding of the etiology of this disease.”

The study was supported by the American Cancer Society.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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