Cancer mortality has declined over the years, due to a...

Cancer mortality has declined over the years, due to a drop in smoking rates, early screening for cancers and improved treatments. Here, Dr. Nina Vincoff, chief of breast imaging at Northwell Health. Credit: Northwell Health

More than 2 million new cases of cancer could be reported in the United States for the first time in 2024, though cancer cases and deaths are projected to decline in New York State, according to estimates released by the American Cancer Society on Wednesday.

The annual Cancer Statistics report estimated 611,720 deaths from cancer will take place nationally and 30,990 in the state.

However, officials said mortality due to cancer has actually declined over the years, avoiding an expected 4 million deaths since 1991.

That is “really good news,” Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society, told reporters during a virtual briefing of the report.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • An annual report from the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 2 million new cases of cancer for the U.S. in 2024, including 122,990 in New York.

  • Deaths from cancer have decreased in recent years, partly due to a drop in smoking rates, early screening for cancers and improved treatments.

  • Death rates for certain cancers are higher for Black and Native American people, illustrating the need to make health care equitable and eliminate disparities, experts said.

Much of that reduction is due to a decline in smoking rates, early screening for cancers and improved treatments, said Dr. Louis Potters, deputy physician-in-chief at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute.

Dahut also emphasized, however, that “tremendous” racial and ethnic health disparities persist.

Officials said deaths have fallen for every single cancer, except uterine cancer, which has a five-year relative survival rate of 63% among Black women as opposed to 84% for white women, the report said.

“Progress is also hampered by wide persistent cancer disparities,” the report read.

The report estimates New York State will have 122,990 new cases of cancer in 2024, with the largest number being prostate cancer followed by female breast cancer, lung cancer and colorectal cancer. The list did not include some skin cancers. That's down slightly from the 123,810 cases in 2023.

It also estimated that 30,990 New Yorkers will die from cancer this year, with the most common type being lung, pancreatic, colorectal and female breast cancers. That's also below the 31,320 estimated new cases in 2023.

The American Cancer Society's report doesn't include statistics by county. But between 2016 and 2020, Suffolk County had about 10,000 cases of cancer annually and Nassau had close to 9,000, according to the New York State Cancer Registry. There were 2,679 annual cancer deaths on average during that period in Suffolk and 2,332 for Nassau.

Dahut said the 2 million cancer cases nationally, a slight increase over last year, could be a “window into what is happening with the obesity epidemic.”

“Cancers driven by obesity, such as pancreas, kidney, postmenopausal breast cancer and liver cancers, are increasing,” he said.

Cases of cervical cancer have decreased due to availability of the HPV vaccination, Dahut said.

While breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women of all ages, mortality decreased 42% between 1989 and 2021.

The report notes this is due to “earlier diagnosis through mammography screening and increased awareness, coupled with improvements in treatment.”

Two-time breast cancer survivor Sandra Correa-Tiernan, 67, of Lindenhurst, said staying on top of screenings helped her beat the disease in 1999 and 2023.

“Early detection and screening — that is my message more than anything,” she said. 

A trend concerning experts is the emergence of colorectal cancer as the leading cause of death among men younger than 50 and the second leading cause of death among women under 50 after breast cancer, as of 2021.

“This is a major issue identified in a number of studies and I’m glad the cancer society is stressing it,” said Dr. Paolo Boffetta, associate director for Population Sciences at the Stony Brook Cancer Center. He said one theory is that obesity could be leading to more cases of colorectal cancer in younger people.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended adults between the ages of 45 and 75 be screened for colorectal cancer.

“We have lowered the screening age to 45 but do we need to go lower or do other tests on younger people who may have a family history or risk factors?” Potters said. “I anticipate over the next couple of years we are going to see changes in recommendations regarding how to screen the population given the age group is a bit outside of routine screening age.”

Boffetta also said the 2 million cancer case statistics isn’t necessarily a grim one.

“Cancer is mainly a disease of older people and the population of the elderly is growing, so by definition there would be more cases of cancer,” he said. “People aren’t dying from cardiovascular disease or stroke. They are living longer.”

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