U.S. Cancer Statistics Released

Cancer rates are on the rise in younger adults.

May 2024 – The Journal of Healthcare Contracting

Cancer mortality has continued to decline nationally. There have been 4 million fewer deaths related to cancer in the U.S. since 1991, according to the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Cancer Statistics 2024 report. Factors that may be impacting the decline in mortality include fewer people smoking, earlier detection for some cancers, and improved treatment, according to the ACS.

The progress, however, has been compromised by an increased incidence of 6 of the top 10 most common cancers. The projected number of new cancer diagnoses for 2024 has topped two million for the first time ever, according to the ACS report.

Lack of cancer prevention tactics has resulted in higher rates of common cancers including breast, prostate, endometrial, colorectal, and cervical cancers, especially amongst younger adults.

Cancer rates in younger adults

The sharp increase in cancer rates among younger Americans is concerning to physicians. Increased screening, awareness of non-invasive tests for colorectal cancer, and follow-up care is important, especially for individuals 45-49 years old. With colorectal cancer especially, according to the ACS, up to one-third of people diagnosed before age 50 have a family history or genetic predisposition for the disease. These individuals should begin screening for cancer before 45 years of age.

Colorectal cancer incidence has moved from being the fourth leading cause of death two decades ago, to now being the leading cause of death for men and the second leading cause in women. Adults under 50 years of age have seen increased cancer mortality overall, with breast cancer leading among women under 50. There were more than 2,000 breast cancer deaths among women under 50 in 2021, according to the ACS.

Cancer patients are getting younger: the proportion of diagnoses in people who are 50-64 years old increased from 25% in 1995 to 30% in 2019-2020. According to the ACS, stressors on people younger than 65, such as lack of health insurance, managing families, and working full time may be a factor in increased cancer rates within younger age groups.

Cancer rate disparities

Mortality rates for certain cancers show wide static cancer disparities. According to the ACS report, compared to White people, mortality rates are two times higher for prostate, stomach, and uterine corpus cancers in Black people, and for liver, stomach, and kidney cancers in Native Americans.

Steeper increases in women of color especially are widening racial disparities, 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), according to the ACS.

The ACS 2024 report exemplifies a need for policy interventions that help reduce cancer disparities. According to the ACS, lawmakers should be urged to ensure that more people have health insurance coverage, improved access to care, greater affordability of healthcare services, increased cancer research funding, and improved screening programs.

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