American Cancer Society Annual Report Shows Cancer Mortality Still Declining, but Cancer Incidence Is Projected to Top 2 Million
Although overall cancer mortality has continued to decline, resulting in over 4 million fewer deaths in the United States since 1991, increasing incidence for 6 of the top 10 cancers pushed the projected number of new diagnoses to over 2 million (2,001,140) for the first time, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS)-issued Cancer Statistics, 2024 report. The report’s findings were published by Siegel et al in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, alongside a consumer-friendly companion, Cancer Facts & Figures 2024.
Equally concerning is the rising incidence of colorectal cancer in adults younger than age 50. According to the report, colorectal cancer in this age group has moved up from the fourth leading cause of cancer in both younger men and women 2 decades ago to first in men and second in women today. In addition, breast cancer mortality ranks first among women under age 50, with 2,251 deaths in 2021.
Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD
“The continuous sharp increase in colorectal cancer in younger Americans is alarming,” said Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, Senior Vice President of Surveillance & Health Equity Science at the ACS and senior author of the report, in a statement. “We need to halt and reverse this trend by increasing uptake of screening, including awareness of noninvasive stool tests with follow-up care, in people [aged] 45 to 49 years. Up to one-third of people diagnosed before 50 have a family history or genetic predisposition and should begin screening before age 45 years. We also need to increase investment to elucidate the underlying reasons for the rising incidence to uncover additional preventive measures.”
Researchers from the ACS compiled the most recent data for this report on population-based cancer occurrence and outcomes using incidence data collected by central cancer registries through 2020, and mortality data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics through 2021.
Additional Findings From the Report
Other highlights from the 2024 report include the following data:
- Although cervical cancer incidence rates are decreasing sharply in women in their 20s—who were the first to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine—they have increased in women aged 30 to 44 by 1.7% per year from 2012 through 2019, highlighting the need for more emphasis on screening in young women, as well as increased uptake of the vaccine. According to the report, in 2021, HPV vaccination coverage in adolescents aged 13 to 17 ranged from 33% in Mississippi to 79% in the District of Columbia.
- After decades of increasing, cancer incidence in children has leveled off, although rates continue to increase among adolescents aged 15 to 19, including a greater than 4% per year rise in thyroid cancer, much of which, according to the report, is likely due to overdiagnosis. The 15-year survival rate for thyroid cancer in adolescents is 99%.
- Mortality rates continue to increase by 2% per year for uterine corpus cancer, one of the few cancers in this report found to have increasing mortality. Racial disparities in mortality rates continue, with the death rate now two times higher in Black women (9.1 per 100,000) than in White women (4.6 per 100,000).
- Data from the report also showed that individuals being diagnosed with cancer are getting younger. The researchers found that the proportion of diagnoses in people between the ages of 50 and 64 increased from 25% in 1995 to 30% during 2019–2020. Alternatively, the proportion of those 65 and older decreased from 61% to 58%, despite both age groups increasing in the population, from 13% to 19% for age 50 to 64 and from 13% to 17% for ages 65 and older. In addition to changes in the population age distribution, this shift reflects steep decreases in the incidence of prostate cancer and smoking-related cancers in older adults, as well as increased cancer incidence in those born after the 1950s due to higher obesity rates and other yet-unknown factors, according to the report.
The repercussions of cancer in younger adults is that those “younger than 65 are less likely to have health insurance and more likely to be juggling family and careers,” said William L. Dahut, MD, Chief Scientific Officer at the ACS, in a statement. “Also, men and women diagnosed [with cancer] younger have a longer life expectancy in which to suffer treatment-related side effects, such as second cancers.”
William L. Dahut, MD
Disparities in Cancer Outcomes Continues
This year’s report continued to capture the disparity trends in cancer mortality between minority and White patients. According to the report, compared to White patients, mortality rates are twofold higher for prostate, stomach, and uterine corpus cancers in Black patients, and for liver, stomach, and kidney cancers in Native American patients.
The Cancer Statistics, 2024 report also includes a special section on “Cancer in People Who Identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Gender-nonconforming (LGBTQ+).” The section summarizes the latest information on the prevalence of major modifiable risk factors for cancer and preventive strategies, including screening in the LGBTQ+ population and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals with cancer based on current data.
Accelerating Progress Against Cancer
Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD
“The 2024 ACS cancer report underscores the importance of cancer prevention and illuminates priority areas to address cancers whose incidence and/or mortality rates are inexplicably rising,” said Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the ACS, in a statement. “These observations highlight the critical need to invest in equitable application of proven cancer control interventions, and in discovery for new therapies, especially for advanced-stage cancers. Both endeavors will be essential to accelerate progress against the 200 diseases we call cancer, and to save lives.”
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com.