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Americans Living Longer Post-Cancer, but Disparities Remain

Study shows biggest improvements in people diagnosed between ages 50 and 64

FRIDAY, Feb. 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Survival rates are improving for many people with cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, liver, and colon or rectum, especially for those diagnosed at younger ages, according to research published online Feb. 19 in JAMA Oncology.

Wei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., co-leader of the Cancer Epidemiology Research Program at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues analyzed data on 1.02 million patients diagnosed with cancer of the breast, colon or rectum, prostate, lung, liver, pancreas, or ovary from 1990 to 2009. Those included in the study were part of the U.S. National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program.

The researchers found that the odds of survival increased significantly for many patients aged 50 to 64. For example, patients from this age group diagnosed with colorectal cancer from 2005 to 2009 had a 43 percent lower risk of death, compared with similar patients diagnosed from 1990 to 1994. Also among the 50-to-64 age group, the reduction in risk of death was 52 percent for breast cancer, 39 percent for liver cancer, and 68 percent for prostate cancer in 2005 to 2009, compared to 1990 to 1994. For patients aged 75 to 85, however, the risk of death was reduced only 12 percent for those with breast or colorectal cancer. For liver cancer, the reduction was 24 percent in older patients, and for those older men with prostate cancer, the risk of death was reduced 35 percent, the researchers found. The researchers found similar, though smaller, improvements in survival for lung and pancreatic cancers.

Because of greater improvements in prostate cancer survival among blacks than whites, the racial difference in prostate cancer survival has decreased, Zheng told HealthDay. “For ovarian cancer, however, the survival rate declined in blacks but slightly increased in whites, leading to a wider racial gap in the survival of this deadly cancer,” he said. “It is important to identify reasons for the slower improvement in cancer survival in elderly Americans and reduced survival rate of ovarian cancer in black women to guide future improvement in cancer care for all.”

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