Here's Why There Are 'More People Than Ever' Surviving Cancer

More people are surviving cancer than ever before in the United States, according to a new report from the American Association for Cancer Research.

“The U.S. cancer death rate is steadily declining, and more people than ever before are living longer and fuller lives after a cancer diagnosis,” the report says. Researchers also noted that just in the past year the number of cancer survivors has increased by more than a million. 

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, killing an estimated 602,350 people in 2020, according to the CDC. But the annual report from the AACR found that cancer death rates in the United States have declined by 32 percent from 1991 to 2019 – a decrease that the group says saved 3.5 million lives.  

The report cited decreases in smoking and improvements in catching and treating cancer early on as reasons for the decline. Dr. Lisa Coussens, president of the association, said in a statement that part of the credit also goes to an investment in research.

“Targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and other new therapeutic approaches being applied clinically all stem from fundamental discoveries in basic science,” she said. “Investment in cancer science, as well as support for science education at all levels, is absolutely essential to drive the next wave of discoveries and accelerate progress.”

But progress is not equal. Many populations “continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of cancer,” the report says. This includes Black populations who have historically been disproportionately impacted by cancer and the health care system. The association noted that in the 1990’s cancer death rates were 33 percent higher for those who are Black than those who are white. That disparity has declined, but death rates are still disproportionate. 

Related story

Stacey Abrams Corrected the Record on This Common & Dangerous Bit of Anti-Choice Medical Misinformation