The number of cancer deaths in the United States has dropped for the second year in a row, the American Cancer Society reported yesterday. The finding suggests that the small drop reported last year — the first in more than 70 years — was real, possibly the start of a continuing decrease and not merely a statistical fluke, researchers said.
The American Cancer Society's annual study of cancer mortality came out yesterday. And for the second year its great news.
The New York Times, though, has a tinge of pessimism in its second paragraph.
"Although the drop is notable, it still pales in comparison with the number of cancer deaths, 553,888 in 2004.....But it has taken enormous efforts and ingenuity to produce relatively small gains." And there is a graph attached to the piece which makes out that cancer mortality has rising from about 400,000 deaths in the US to about 550,000 since 1980.
Well. Although its right to be cautious, these figures should be cause for enormous cheer particularly because cancer mortality is not an isolated statistic. Since the 1980s, the rates of heart disease have declined by about 25 per cent since the mid 1980s. As the leading cause of death in the US is clattering down, people are dying of other things. And although cancer has been slow to catch up with cardiovascular treatments, it is catching up.
And more than anything this kind of statistic rebutts the widely held belief that cancer rates are increasing.