Some interesting facts on the incidence of cancer in the US –
- Cancer incidence in the US is high. One in three women and one in two men will get cancer in their lifetimes. One in four will die of it. “Since 1990, there have been approximately 5 million cancer deaths [in the US]” (American Cancer Society: Cancer Facts & Figures – 1998).
- According to Sandra Steingraber, the incidence of all types of cancer combined rose 49.3 percent between 1950 and 1991. Steingraber says about 40 percent of people living in the US (38.3 percent of women and 48.2 percent of men) will contract cancer sometime in our lifespans. Cancer is the leading cause of death among US Americans aged thirty-five to sixty-four (Steingraber, p. 40). Cancer is the second leading cause of death among children (after accidents) (Rachel’s Environmental Health Weekly #599).
- Some forms of cancer are receding, but others are increasing. Cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, colon and rectum have all become more frequent. Leukemia and brain cancer are increasing among children.
- Some people tend to dismiss statements about increased cancer incidence by attributing it to smoking. About 30% of cancer deaths in the US are caused by smoking. If lung cancer is excluded, writes Steingraber, overall cancer incidence rose 35 percent (1950-1991). Dr. Samuel Epstein, MD states that 75 percent of increased cancer incidence since 1950 occurred in sites other than the lung (The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No. 2, March/April 1998, p.72).
- There is widespread belief that cancer incidence is increasing because people live longer. This is the trade-off, we are told, for longer life expectancy. If this were the case, only old people would get cancer. Epstein points out, however, that cancer incidence rates are age-adjusted (‘age-adjustment’ is a statistical technique which removes the effects of age distribution and allows researchers to focus on the risk factors). Furthermore, National Cancer Institute figures show that childhood cancers increased by 21.3 percent in US whites between 1950 and 1988 (cited in The Ecologist, p.53).
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