Cancer Death Rates Down Nationwide, But Spike in Poorer Areas

The overall rate of death from cancer declined about 20 percent between 1980 and 2014; however, there are distinct clusters of counties in the US with particularly high cancer mortality rates, according to a study in the January 24/31 issue of JAMA.

Due to big advances in cervical cancer detection, it has always been thought that cervical cancer was on the decline in the United States - but that may not be the case. "In addition, many of those who are dying are over the age of 65, a cutoff point where guidelines generally no longer recommend women with cervices be regularly screened for cervical cancer", she added.

According to the CBS, the Affordable Care Act took effect in the study's final years and give priority to prevention services including no-cost screenings for breast, colorectal and cervical cancers.

To produce these national mortality rates, the researchers analysed cervical cancer mortality rates using national death certificate data from the National Center for Health Statistics and from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) national cancer registries and then removed the proportion of women who reported a hysterectomy, a number obtained from a national survey.

The recent study, published January 23 in Nature, identified molecular and genomic characteristics of cervical cancer that will help to classify subtypes of the disease, as well as guide potential therapies that are targeted at individual patients. However, the cancer death rate nationwide continues to fall, a new extensive analysis has found. Some 3,069 counties - out of a total of 3,142 - saw significant increases in liver cancer death rates, and numerous counties on the West Coast and in New Mexico and west Texas had much larger increases.

These numbers also reveal a major racial gap.

While the causal A to B for many cancers remains unclear, the research team pointed to a combination of lifestyle factors-especially smoking, diet and obesity-along with differences in early detection and specialized treatment. "Indeed, monitoring cancer mortality at the county level can help identify worsening incidence, inadequate access to quality treatment, or potentially other etiological factors involved", the authors write.

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Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called HPV (human papilloma virus).

Still, there is evidence that a small percentage of cervical cancers are not related to HPV.

In most, cervical cancer occurs in middle-aged women but is mostly found in women younger than 50.

Cervical screening isn't a test for cancer; it's a test to check the health of the cells of the cervix. But in rare cases, HPV infections linger for years, and this puts women at risk for cervical cancer.

"There's really some striking differences", Dr. Shepard said.

Cancer, the No 2 cause of death in the U.S., has always been tracked by health officials, but existing databases had largely measured such statistics on state or national levels.

  • Ismael Montgomery