About 156 people an hour will learn they have cancer this year, according to new data from the American Cancer Society. And by the end of this year, scientists predict, 563,700 people in the USA will have died from the disease.
But the grim statistics in Cancer Facts and Figures 2004, an American Cancer Society report released Wednesday, reveal that some strides have been made.
Death rates have declined slightly, for instance, and major victories have been won against lung cancer through anti-smoking campaigns.
But they also show another American behavior looming large as a danger to the aging population. Obesity and the lack of physical activity causes as many as one-third of the USA's cancer cases.
''It has become increasingly clear that obesity is a factor in about a dozen different types of cancer,'' says Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society, who co-wrote the report. Thun says communities must create ''social policies that can help people maintain healthy body weight and help people get regular physical activity.''
The report is released each year to give doctors an idea about how the battle against cancer is going. Other findings:
* Lung cancer is down in men but still increasing among women.
* Five-year survival improved significantly for children, from 56% in the mid-1970s to 78% in the 1990s.
* African-American men have 40% higher mortality from all cancers combined than white men.
Thun says there are many possible reasons for the disparities, including poverty, which limits access to quality health care.
African-American women, for instance, have a lower incidence of breast cancer but a higher death rate from the disease.
''If you don't have health insurance, your chances of getting appropriate mammography and then appropriate follow-up and treatment is much less,'' Thun says. ''Many of these things are difficult to turn around.''
The full report can be found online at www.cancer.org.
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