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Cancer Survival Rates Improving

Posted 2/26/2015

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  This is all excellent news: a new study reported in JAMA Oncology indicates that five year survival rates for (almost) all types of cancer are improving. That is the good news. The less good news is that the incidence of cancer is not declining, and the survival rates are not good enough.

  It is all too easy to become angry and frustrated and believe that researchers are not trying hard enough or that money is being spent in the wrong places (actually would agree with that one on a policy scale; that is, I think too much money is totally wasted and not spent on public health and scientific research) or even that there is some kind of evil collusion between pharma and finance and medicine that keeps cures away from the public. That last is completely untrue, but I occasionally hear from people who believe it.

  Here is the truth as I understand it: cancer is one incredibly difficult problem to solve, partly because it is actually hundreds of different diseases that must be separately understood and government funding for research is indeed greatly reduced. To know more about the cancer's complexity, I refer you again to the wonderful book, The Emperor of all Maladies. To know more about funding, just Google "NCI budget" or "federal spending for cancer research". You will be disheartened.

  From Reuters, however, here is a summary of the news of improved survival rates. I give you an excerpt and then a link to read more:

U.S. cancer survival rates improving
BY ANDREW M. SEAMAN

Men and women ages 50 to 64, who were diagnosed in 2005 to 2009 with a variety of cancer types, were 39 to 68 percent more likely to be alive five years later, compared to people of the same age diagnosed in 1990 to 1994, researchers found.

“Pretty much all populations improved their cancer survival over time,” said Dr. Wei Zheng, the study’s senior author from Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

As reported in JAMA Oncology, he and his colleagues analyzed data from a national sample of more than 1 million people who were diagnosed with cancer of the colon or rectum, breast, prostate, lung, liver, pancreas or ovary between 1990 and 2010.

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