Cancer rehab patient looking at herself in the mirror


Roundup: U.S. Cancer Deaths Continue Decline, Annual Report Says; Benefits of Quitting Smoking at Younger Ages; and COVID’s Potential Link to Risk of Alzheimer’s

Cancer Death Rates Continued Declining 2015-2019, States U.S. Annual Update


From 2015 to 2019, overall cancer death rates decreased by 2.1 percent per year in men and women combined, a result of continuing advances in preventing, detecting and treating cancer, according to the newly released 2022 Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer.

Among men, death rates decreased by 2.3 percent per year; among women, death rates decreased by 1.9 percent per year, states the news release on the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The yearly report is a collaborative effort among the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health; the CDC; the American Cancer Society (ACS); and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR).

The annual declines in death rate continued from 2001 to 2019 in both men and women. The declines in death rates were sharpest in lung cancer and melanoma (by 4 percent to 5 percent per year) among both men and women. Death rates increased for cancers of the pancreas, brain, and bones and joints among men — and for cancers of the pancreas and uterus among women.

“The findings in this year’s Annual Report to the Nation show our ongoingprogress against cancer, continuing a more than two-decade trend in declining mortality that reflects improvements in preventing, detecting, and treating cancer,” said Monica M. Bertagnolli, M.D., director of NCI. “The advances shown in the report underscore the importance of working together across society to develop effective, equitable approaches to tackle this complex disease. I look forward to working with all our partners in the cancer community to meet these challenges head-on, because people affected by cancer—and that includes all of us—are counting on it.”

Among other key findings, states the CDC:

  • The incidence of breast cancer, the most common cancer among adolescents and young adults, increased by an average of 1.0 percent per year from 2010 to 2018.
  • Overall cancer incidence rates during 2014 to 2018 were highest among non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) people, followed closely by non-Hispanic White people and non-Hispanic Black people.
  • Among children younger than 15, overall cancer death rates decreased from 2015 to 2019, and incidence rates remained stable from 2014 to 2018. Overall cancer incidence rates were stable for non-Hispanic Black children over this period, but increased for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic API, non-Hispanic AI/AN, and Hispanic children.


New Study Pinpoints Best Age for Quitting Smoking to Avoid Risks of Early Death


Cigarette smoking continues to cause nearly 530,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, but a major new study has found that smokers who quite before age 35 can achieve a “substantial reversal of risk” when compared to those who never smoked.

Researchers isolated the benefits of quitting by age groups. The risk of early death linked to smoking was reduced by 90 percent among those who quit before the age of 45. For those who quit between the ages of 45 and 64, the decrease in risk was at 66 percent.

A vital aspect of the research found that the benefits of quitting smoking are comparable across demographic group, wrote the study’s authors in the publication JAMA Network.

“Among former smokers in each racial and ethnic group, whether male or female, quitting was associated with reductions of approximately 80 percent of the excess mortality associated with continued smoking,” the authors stated. “These associations were generally consistent for deaths from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lower respiratory disease.”

The key is getting young adults to quit before the age of 35, researchers state in a commentary on the study. That’s because those who quit before they reach 35 years of age “have mortality rates that are not different than those of never smokers,” states John P. Pierce, Ph.D., director for Population Sciences at UC-San Diego’s Moores Cancer Center, in the study’s commentary.

“Health professionals and public health campaigns could incorporate this target age for quitting in their efforts to motivate young smokers to try to quit,” states. Dr. Pierce. “Young smokers may want to avoid the health consequences of smoking. Now there is a proximal target age for them to achieve a successful quit attempt, and their motivation to try to quit may likely increase as they approach this age.”

The study involved 551,388 U.S. participants and was based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected from 1997 to 2018. Researchers looked at a for specific causes of death among participants through the end of 2019.


Adults 65 and Older at Higher Risk of Alzheimer’s Diagnosis One Year After COVID Infection, Study Finds


A new study based on electronic health records of more than 6 million U.S. adults age 65 and older has found that those infected with COVID-19 have a substantially higher risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease within a year.

The highest risk was observed in women at least 85 years old. The study from researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, does not find that COVID causes Alzheimer’s, but it adds to other reports of links between the virus and dementia.

The study’s findings showed that the risk for developing Alzheimer’s in older people nearly doubled (0.35 percent to 0.68 percent) over a one-year period following infection with COVID. The researchers state that it is unclear whether COVID-19 triggers new development of Alzheimer’s disease, or accelerates its emergence.

Overall, older people who were infected with COVID-19 showed as much as a 50 percent to 80 percent higher risk — than a control group — of developing Alzheimer’s within a year, the study said.

“The factors that play into the development of Alzheimer’s disease have been poorly understood, but two pieces considered important are prior infections, especially viral infections, and inflammation,” states Pamela Davis, Distinguished University Professor at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, who is study’s coauthor. “Since infection with (COVID-19) has been associated with central nervous system abnormalities including inflammation, we wanted to test whether, even in the short term, COVID could lead to increased diagnoses,” 

The results indicate that researchers should be tracking older patients who recover from COVID to see if they subsequently show signs of dementia such as memory loss, declining brain function — or Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common type of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease involves parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language.

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