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Am Fam Physician. 2004;70(8):1592-1594

CDC Report on Cancer Mortality Surveillance

The National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new report on cancer mortality entitled, “Cancer Mortality Surveillance—United States, 1990–2000.” The report is available online at

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and is expected to become the leading cause of death within the next decade. Considerable variation exists in cancer mortality between the sexes and among different racial/ethnic populations and geographic locations. The description of mortality data by state, gender, and race/ethnicity is essential for cancer-control researchers to target areas of need and develop programs that reduce the burden of cancer. It also can help clinicians in specific geographic areas develop programs in their communities to target high-risk populations.

Mortality data from the CDC from 1990 to 2000 were used to determine that mortality from cancer decreased among the majority of racial/ethnic populations and geographic locations in the United States. Statistically significant decreases in mortality among all races combined occurred with lung and bronchus cancer among men, colorectal cancer among men and women, prostate cancer, and female breast cancer.

Cancer mortality remained stable among American Indian/Alaska Native populations. Statistically significant increases in lung and bronchus cancer mortality occurred among women of all racial/ethnic backgrounds, except among Asian/Pacific Islanders.

Although cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States, the overall declining trend in cancer mortality demonstrates considerable progress in cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. More effective tobacco-cessation programs are necessary to reduce lung and bronchus cancer mortality among women and sustain the decrease in lung and bronchus cancer mortality among men. Additional programs that deter smoking initiation among adolescents are essential to ensure future decreases in lung and bronchus cancer mortality. Continued research in primary prevention, screening methods, and therapeutics is needed to further reduce disparities and improve quality of life and survival among all populations.

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