Published January 10, 2012
An estimated 12 million people in the United States have cancer, but a new report by the American Cancer Society (ACS) shows that we are continuing to make strides in the fight against the devastating disease.
The ACS is a nationwide voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer, providing support and spreading awareness. Every year, the organization publishes a comprehensive report outlining the status of cancer in the U.S., pooling data from several nationally maintained registries.
Over the past 20 years, the number of people dying from cancer has dropped drastically. Since 1990, the U.S. has experienced approximately 23 percent and 15 percent decreases in overall cancer mortality rates, for men and women respectively; translating into over one million lives saved.
Additionally, the number of deaths have fallen in all four of the most common cancers: Lung, colon, breast and prostate. Three of these cancers have widespread screening tests in place and the ACS attributes these promising figures to advancements in early detection and treatment.
In recent months, prostate cancer screening has come under increasing scrutiny after an announcement from the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) that they will no longer recommend its use.
The USPSTF cited a large American trial that tested the utility of prostate cancer screening and showed no mortality rate benefits. The majority of the control group, however, had actually been screened at some point during the study, blurring the true efficacy of the trial used as evidence. Furthermore, two large population studies in Europe found that screening was associated with major reductions in cancer-specific deaths.
Amid the conflicting results, the ACS still recommends regular prostate cancer screening for all men older than 50 years of age. In the U.S., a 39 percent reduction in prostate cancer-specific deaths has occurred since the widespread adoption of PSA screening in the 1990s.
Prostate cancer is an unpredictable disease. For some men it can have an indolent course, however I have seen firsthand how devastating the disease can be when it goes untreated. Research has also shown that men who are treated earlier have better functional outcomes following surgery.
At our institution, the SMART (Samadi Modified Assisted Robotic Technique) surgery has allowed us to achieve 97 percent continence and 81 percent potency rates at one year following surgery.
Despite promising trends, the ACS still estimates that more than 1.6 million people will be diagnosed and 577,190 people will die from cancer in the coming year.
Unfortunately, many of these deaths would have been preventable. For instance, the report cited seven cancers which have increased in prevalence. This represents areas where dedicated research is needed. These cancers included pancreas, liver, thyroid, kidney, melanoma, esophageal and throat cancers associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
The ACS also noted that over 25 percent of total cancer deaths will have been caused by tobacco use and another third will be related to obesity, physical inactivity and poor nutrition. As a population, by making healthier choices we are in a position to decrease the number of people dying every year from cancer by half.
For more information on prevention and screening guidelines, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. To learn more please visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.