Cancer Deaths Are Down, But More Men Are Dying of Prostate Cancer
Cancer deaths in the United States have dropped 33% since 1991, saving an estimated 3.8 million lives, according to the American Cancer Society's annual statistics report released last week.
That's great news, some of it driven by an "astounding" 65% reduction in cervical cancer rates among 20- to 24-year-old women between 2012 and 2019, a direct result of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer at the American Cancer Society.
His colleague, ACS Chief Executive Officer Karen Knudsen added that "this is some of the first real-world evidence that HPV vaccination is likely to be effective in reducing cancer incidence and [death rates]."
That's fantastic, but we've lost significant ground - and too many lives - in another area.
Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among U.S. men and deaths from advanced disease rose 3% a year from 2014 through 2019 after two decades of decline, the report found. The proportion of men diagnosed with later-stage disease has doubled since 2011.
Fewer men are getting routine screenings - namely the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test - because the government keeps changes its recommendations, causing confusion among doctors and patients alike.
In 2008, the influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended against PSA screening for men ages 75 and older, citing their concerns about whether an elevated PSA necessarily signals cancer and whether doctors were diagnosing and treating too many men whose prostate cancer might progress so slowly that the men would die of something else before it became a problem.
Common prostate cancer treatments - surgery, radiation, hormone therapy - have potential side effects that include incontinence and sexual dysfunction.
In 2012, the group advised against routine screening for men of all ages and then in 2018, they essentially threw up their hands and said that men aged 55 to 69 should decide for themselves in consultation with their doctors.
Localized prostate cancer is treatable and the long term survival rates are upwards of 97%. When that cancer, however, goes undetected and untreated, spreading beyond the original tumor (metastisizes), the 5-year survival rate drops to 32%.
8,000 dads, grandfathers, sons, brothers, uncles, friends and co-workers, all gone from a disease that's preventable and more treatable than ever before.
Talk to the men in your life. Talk to your doctor.