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Some Good News About Cancer

February 21, 2008

St. Paul, MN – There's finally some good news about cancer. In its new report, the American Cancer Society(ACS) finds that overall mortality rates are declining. But Matt Flory, Minnesota ACS spokesman, says there's still more that can be done.

"We have a national report that demonstrates that, across the country and in Minnesota, we are reducing the rate of cancer death. There are some things that we can continue to do to win this battle: we can quit smoking, eat better, we exercise more."

He says death rates for breast, prostate and colon cancers have declined, but actual numbers of cancer deaths are up slightly. He explains that's because cancer risks increase with age, so the longer people live, the more likely they are to be diagnosed. Flory says the report is hopeful, but still raises some concerns.

"Overall, the rates of death are dropping. There's been some slight fluctuation in the actual number of deaths, because of the fact that our population is getting a little bit older and increasing in numbers. The good news is that the rates are continuing to drop."

Flory adds there are some troubling trends. For example, lung cancer accounts for one in four cancer deaths in Minnesota. This rate is dropping only half as quickly in the state as it is nationally; and in women, it is increasing. He cites ethnic differences, too.

"What we're seeing is that, both nationally and Minnesota, African-Americans have higher rates of cancer. One thing that's an interesting difference is that, nationally, American Indians tend to have lower cancer rates. In Minnesota, they have some of the highest cancer rates."

The report says cancer is the second leading cause of death nationwide, following heart disease -- but it still tops the list in Minnesota.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN