A new report from the American Cancer Society shows that U.S. cancer death rate dropped 2.4% from 2017 to 2018, the biggest single-year decline since it peaked in 1991 and bringing the total to a 31% drop overall.
"To see these continuing record declines in cancer mortality is very encouraging," said senior scientific director of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, Rebecca Siegel.
However, cancer remains the country's second leading cause of death following heart disease. There were more than 599,000 cancer related deaths in 2018.
"We have a lot of good progress. We should celebrate that, but we shouldn't declare victory," said chief of population sciences at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Deborah Schrag.
According to the American Cancer Society's report, the drop since 1991 are mainly due to the reductions of smoking and improvements in early detection and treatment. Lung cancer accounts for almost one-quarter of the country's cancer deaths.
Powerful new lung-cancer treatments have emerged over the past several years, increasing the two-year survival rate for lung cancer from 30% to 36%.
"For those of us in the lung-cancer community, that's extremely rewarding," said president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Thomas Lynch. "Our treatments do make a difference."
The report estimates that there will be nearly 1.9 million new cancer diagnoses and more than 600,000 cancer-related deaths in 2021 in the U.S.
Doctors said the pandemic will likely lead to some cancers being discovered at later stages when they are more difficult to treat due to delayed or missed cancer screenings.
"This will be an impact that will be felt slowly over the next decade," said Siegel.