Latest Casualties in the War on Cancer

Cancer deaths in the U.S. have been falling for several years, mainly because of a reduction in smoking and the resultant decrease in lung cancer.

Detailing those numbers – and how researchers arrive at them – was the focus of  a talk by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expert with National Press Foundation fellows.

Jane Henley, an epidemiologist for the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, is an author of the “Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer,” a collaboration of several organizations for cancer incidence surveillance.

The U.S. has one of the most robust surveillance systems in the world, collecting data from cancer registries and mortality systems from all states. It covers 100% of the population and compiles demographic information (sex, race, address), clinical data (date of diagnosis, date of treatment) and diagnostic information (cancer site and stage).

The information is available for journalists, researchers and the public at large at the CDC’s data visualization site. It’s broken down into states, counties and even congressional districts. It allows journalists to get specific fast: A quick query on leukemia rates in Alabama’s congressional districts finds an estimated 566 new cases of leukemia in District 5 between 2012 and 2016. Of those, an estimated 296 people died.

Henley detailed how the CDC presents its statistics, including the difference between incidence and incidence rate – the number of cases (incidence) may be going up even if the percentage of people getting the cancer (incidence rate) may be dropping.

This program is funded by the American Association for Cancer Research. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

Jane Henley
Epidemiologist, Cancer Surveillance Branch. Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, CDC
Help Make Good Journalists Better
Donate to the National Press Foundation to help us keep journalists informed on the issues that matter most.
You might also like
Breakthrough Cancer Therapy
Cancer by the Numbers
Cancer Screening: Risks and Benefits
Cost of Cancer Care
Half or More of All Cancers Could Be Prevented
How Clinical Trials Are Built
New Approaches for Prostate Cancer
Racial Disparities in Cancer
The Direction of Cancer Research
War on Cancer Falling Short