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BMJ. 2007 October 27; 335(7625): 849.
PMCID: PMC2043464

Breast cancer incidence in US has fallen for first time in 20 years

The incidence of breast cancer in women in the United States dropped 3.5% a year from 2001 to 2004, the first time it has fallen in 20 years.

A decline in the use of hormone replacement therapy and in screening for breast cancer might explain the trend, say the authors of a report in Cancer (doi: 10.1002/cncr.23044).

The US government's annual report to the nation on the status of cancer 1975-2004 also shows that overall mortality from cancer fell by 2.1% a year from 2002 to 2004, nearly twice the annual decrease of 1.1% a year in the decade from 1993.

“The evidence is unmistakable: we are truly turning the tide in the cancer battle,” said John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, in response to the report. “The gains could be even greater if everyone had access to essential health care, including primary care and prevention services,” he added.

The authors analysed data on cancer incidence that were available for up to 82% of the US population and figures on deaths from cancer, which were available for the entire population.

Among men and women mortality from most types of cancer fell. The numbers of new cases and deaths from colon cancer fell, as did deaths from prostate cancer. The number of deaths from colon cancer fell more sharply between 2002 and 2004 than previously.

The report shows that the long term decline in cancer mortality has continued for both sexes, with the decline from 2002 to 2004 running at an annual 2.6% a year among men and 1.8% among women.

The number of deaths fell for most of the leading 15 cancers in men and women, including lung, prostate, and colorectal cancers—the three leading causes of death from cancer in men. In women the number of deaths from colorectal cancer and breast cancer fell, while the rate of increase in lung cancer deaths slowed substantially. The overall incidence rates for both sexes and all races combined fell slightly from 1992 to 2004.

The incidence of lung cancer in women stabilised after long term increases, and in men the incidence fell 1.8% a year from 1991 to 2004. The incidence of colorectal cancer fell by more than 2% a year for men and women—probably, say the authors, as the result of pre-cancerous polyp removal.


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