ACS Facts & Figures 2021 reports another record-breaking one-year drop in cancer deaths

Jan. 13, 2021

The American Cancer Society (ACS) released its Facts & Figures 2021 report, which found that the death rate from cancer in the United States has continued to decline.

The annual report found that from 1991 to 2018, the cancer death rate has fallen 31 percent. This includes a 2.4 percent decline from 2017 to 2018—a new record for the largest one-year drop in the cancer death rate. The report estimates that in the US in 2021, almost 1.9 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed. And more than 600,000 people will die from cancer.

This most recent cancer data is two to four years behind the current year because of the time it takes to collect data, interpret it, ensure its quality, and share it. ACS researchers used data about new diagnoses of cancer through 2017 and about deaths from cancer through 2018. As a result, these reported numbers do not account for the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has likely had on cancer diagnoses and deaths. More details about COVID-19 and its impact on cancer is available in the report’s Special Section: COVID-19 and Cancer.

Each year, the ACS reports on the most recent facts about cancer in the US. They estimate numbers of new cancer diagnoses and deaths for the coming year. These estimates are some of the most widely quoted cancer statistics in the world.

The 27-year decline in overall cancer deaths is due to long-term drops in death rates in the four most common cancers: lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate. The largest drop is seen in lung cancer deaths. However, progress in reducing colorectal and breast cancer deaths has slowed and prostate cancer rates have stayed the same.

Other highlights from the report include:

  • Every day in 2018, about 11 women died from cervical cancer in the US, with half of them in their 50s and younger. Cervical cancer is almost 100 percent preventable through screening and the HPV vaccine. The US has lower up-to-date HPV vaccination rates than other high-income countries. As a result, cervical cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women in their 20s.
  • For women, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers combined make up just over 50 percent of all new diagnoses, with breast cancer accounting for 30 percent of all cancers in women.
  • Compared to dropping trends for lung and colorectal cancers, the rate of new female breast cancer cases increased by about 0.5 percent each year from 2008 to 2017, which is, in part, from, increased obesity rates and decreased fertility rates.
  • Prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectal cancers make up 46 percent of all cancer cases in men, with prostate cancer accounting for 26 percent of all cancers in men.

The full article, Cancer Statistics, 2021 was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. The findings are also available in a companion report, Cancer Facts and Figures 2021, and at the interactive Cancer Statistics Center website.

American Cancer Society has the report.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.