January 12, 2022
3 min read

Report: Lung cancer survival improves, progress stagnates in breast, prostate cancers

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An increasing percentage of lung cancer cases are being diagnosed at an earlier stage, according to a new report from American Cancer Society.

Individuals diagnosed with the disease also appear to be living longer, the Cancer Statistics 2022 report showed. In contrast, progress in the treatment of prostate and breast cancers appears to have stagnated, the report’s authors concluded.

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In addition, approximately 10 women in the United States die of cervical cancer each day, even though HPV vaccination can prevent the malignancy. Half of these women are in their 50s or younger.

Rebecca Siegel
Rebecca Siegel

“Despite an accelerating drop in cancer mortality overall, including exciting recent advances against lung cancer, it’s frustrating to still see thousands of preventable deaths each year from cervical cancer,” lead author Rebecca Siegel, MPH, senior scientific director of surveillance research at American Cancer Society, said in a press release. “Most of these women have never been screened, so this is low-hanging fruit easily addressed by increasing access to screening and vaccination among underserved women.”

The annual report provides estimates for cancer cases and deaths in the current year. The data provide insights into progress and identify areas where more efforts are needed to reduce the cancer burden.

The report’s key findings included:

  • The percentage of lung cancers diagnosed at a localized stage increased from 17% in 2004 to 28% in 2018. The percentage of people with lung cancer who survived 3 years after diagnosis increased from 21% to 31% during that time. Authors credit these improvements to more widespread lung cancer screening, development of more effective treatments and increased access to care provided by the Affordable Care Act.
  • Despite improved outcomes for people with lung cancer, 350 people in the United States die of the malignancy each day. This accounts for more cancer deaths than prostate, breast and pancreatic cancers combined. Approximately 20% of lung cancer deaths in 2022 will be unrelated to smoking.
  • Prostate cancer incidence is stable; however, the rate of advanced-stage diagnoses increased by 4% to 6% per year from 2014 through 2018. The proportion of prostate cancers diagnosed at a distant stage increased from 3.9% to 8.2% over the past decade. This likely is due to declines in PSA testing, according to the report’s authors. The decline in testing has been steeper among Black men, who have a considerably higher risk for prostate cancer mortality.
  • Female breast cancer incidence has increased by approximately 0.5% per year since the mid-2000s. Report authors attributed this trend to declines in the fertility rate and increased prevalence of excess body weight, both of which are established breast cancer risk factors.
  • The report also highlighted persistent socioeconomic, racial and geographic disparities for highly preventable cancers. The report’s authors emphasized the importance of greater investment in the broad application of established cancer control interventions, as well as more research to increase understanding and advance treatments that can accelerate progress against cancer and mitigate racial or socioeconomic inequalities.
  • Reductions in lung cancer mortality contributed to an acceleration in the reduction of overall cancer mortality. Cancer mortality declined by 2% per year from 2015 through 2019, compared with 1.5% annually in the 2000s and 1% annually in the late 1990s. Five-year survival for all cancers stands at 68%, compared with 49% in the mid-1970s.
  • An estimated 1.9 million new cancer diagnoses will be made in the United States in 2022, and an estimated 609,360 Americans will die of cancer this year. Report authors noted the estimates are based on incidence data through 2018 and mortality data through 2019, so they do not reflect the effects of COVID-19. Estimates suggest men have a slightly higher lifetime probability of being diagnosed with invasive cancer compared with women (40.2% vs. 38.5%).
Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD
Karen E. Knudsen

“We are pleased to see a continuous significant reduction in mortality in cancer overall, resulting from increased awareness, data-driven prevention strategies, and improvements in early detection and treatments,” Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, the cancer society’s CEO, said in the release. “These new statistics remind us that everyone should undergo appropriate risk assessment and should be given the opportunity to make an informed decision about testing for early cancer detection.”