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Progress Against Cancer

By April 18, 2024Commentary

Cancer and heart disease are the two biggest killers in developed countries.  As people live longer, they are more likely to have at least one go-round with cancer.  Immense sums have been spent to understand cancer and to develop more effective diagnostics and treatments.  And preventive measures, like discouraging smoking, have been enhanced as well.  The result of all this is that cancer in many cases is becoming a chronic disease, lasting several years before either remission is achieved or the patient dies.  Mortality rates have declined as a result of all this progress.  The American Association for Cancer Research puts out an annual report on progress in dealing with cancer.  (AACR Report)

Between 1991 and 2020, cancer death rates fell by over 30%.  Almost 20 million living Americans have a history of at least one cancer.  Death rates are down because better diagnostics and stronger encouragement of screening for certain cancers has led to discovery of cancer at an earlier stage when it is more likely to be successfully treated.  And new treatments come on line every month.  These treatments are often very expensive specialty drugs and newer cell therapies, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for a round of treatment.   Cancer treatment costs are an increasing drain on the system.

One area that could really use better compliance is limiting risk factors.  This is a matter of personal responsibility, but that can be increased by more stringent penalties and incentives.  These risk factors include obvious things like smoking, excessive alcohol use, being overweight, not using sunscreen and not getting adequate exercise.

The best way to deal with cancer is to prevent it, and the next best method is regular screening and awareness of symptoms to ensure early diagnosis.

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