Cancer Incidence Rates Dropping

Ronald Bailey in Reason has the numbers. Note the data is for detected incidence rate.  Since detection continues to improve, the numbers likely understand the true drop in incidence rates.  Further, since people tend to live longer, and cancer rates are higher as we get older, there should be a demographic trend to higher rates, but in fact we see the opposite (I don't know if they do some kind of age correction, but it doesn't appear so).  This means, again, the improvement for, say, the average 50-year-old is understated.


  1. Henry Bowman:

    I'm sure the cancer rates are adjusted for age, as they would be rather meaningless otherwise. I've actually never seen any tabulations that were not adjusted for age.

  2. terrence:

    Typo alert - "the numbers likely understand the true drop in incidence rates"
    It should read, "the numbers likely understate the true drop in incidence rates"

  3. CTD:

    ObamaCare is already working! Who still doubts his power?

  4. elambend:

    The whole cancer thing is starting to look like a classic infection, a beginning huge spike and than gradual recession in rate of infection.

  5. Benny The Man:

    What if cancer rates are dropping due to a decrease in carcinogens in the environment, and that due to (horrors) government regulations?

  6. skh.pcola:

    What if cancer rates are dropping due to an increase of magic unicorn flatulence? What if speculation about causation is a thoroughly useless endeavor?

  7. Dr. T:

    Cancer incident rates have been falling because of decreased exposures to known cancer-causing agents. Most cancer-causing agents are chemicals, and the worst ones are either banned or used with extreme care. Some cancer-causing agents are viruses, and lower cancer incident rates are due to vaccinations (against hepatitis B and human papilloma viruses) and to less exposure (we can test for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C in the blood supply). Radiation also can cause cancers. Modern radiology equipment has essentially zero radiation leakage (which protects workers). People are more aware of solar radiation risks and keep covered or use protective lotions that block skin cancer-causing UV radiation.

    What this shows is that the work of and collaboration among medical scientists, physicians, occupational and public health workers, and educators have been effective in improving health. It happened in the past with communicable diseases, and it's happening now with cancer. Isn't it nice to know that some aspects of our society work correctly? And, isn't it nice to see that the doom mongers and anti-science and technology naysayers have been proved wrong?

  8. A Friend:

    Dr. T, while I support your general idea, I'd hypothesize the largest reason for this is the decline in smoking, both directly via lung cancer and indirectly in other cases. The chart in the linked article is really amazing, and peaks in 1990, about when the smoking generation would have been passing on.