Cancer

Progress in Cancer Medicine: A Bird’s Eye View

Posted on 2 June 2020

While there is still no ‘magic bullet’ in the field of cancer medicine, significant incremental progress has nevertheless been made in recent decades. Cancer incidence rates increased by about 22% over 26 years, but cancer mortality decreased by the same amount, according to a study published in Annals of Epidemiology.

Researchers studied cancer incidence and mortality across different age groups from 1990 to 2016. Their data came from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and The Netherlands.

Graphs comparing cancer incidence and mortality in 1990 vs 2016. In some countries, mortality has not improved for the oldest age groups, possibly because they are eligible for treatments due to poorer overall health.
Rizzi, S., Wensink, M., Ahrenfeldt, L., Christensen, K., & Lindahl-Jacobsen, R. (2020). Age-specific cancer rates: a bird’s-eye view on progress. Annals Of Epidemiology. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.04.007

The authors attribute these changes mainly to improvements in cancer treatment and earlier cancer detection: earlier and more effective detection makes cancer easier to treat, while also increasing the apparent incidence for a given age group. Public health in general has also improved, which may contribute to improved survival and ability to withstand harsher treatment.

Over the last decades, major systemic changes have been implemented in cancer health care, such as screening programs, public awareness programs, doctor’s awareness programs, cancer registries, protocols and cancer plans, and centralization of treatment. It is tantalizing to see how the combination of these changes and great differences between specific cancers add up to a remarkably uniform change in age-specific rates: incidence is up by about 22%, mortality is down by about 22%. While the countries in this study are all high-resource countries, the potential unveiled here is probably general.

Rizzi, S., Wensink, M., Ahrenfeldt, L., Christensen, K., & Lindahl-Jacobsen, R. (2020). Age-specific cancer rates: a bird’s-eye view on progress. Annals Of Epidemiology. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.04.007

References

Age-specific cancer rates: a bird's-eye view on progress: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2020.04.007

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