SAN DIEGO — A report published this month by the American Cancer Society revealed a promising trend in the fight against cancer. The study shows that the rate of people dying from various forms of cancer in the U.S. has dropped for 26 straight years. This includes the largest single-year drop in cancer death rate ever recorded – a decline of 2.2 percent -- for the most recent year tracked, 2017.

Dr. Thomas Buchholz, Medical Director of the Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center and a Scripps Clinic physician joined Morning Extra to talk about what this means for San Diego.

Dr. Bucholz says the progress is being made because of a few certain things.

  • Cancer Prevention Efforts – Fewer people are using tobacco; the CDC reports smoking is now down to 14%, compared to 40% in the mid-1960s. We also have increased awareness of sun protection; and vaccinations that can be used to prevent some viral induced-cancers.
  • Cancer Detection – We’re doing a better job of catching cancer earlier. Scripps MD Anderson has a full range of advanced screening and diagnostic technology, to aid in early and accurate detection.They offer free breast, cervical and prostate cancer screenings to those w/ little or no insurance
  • Advances in Treatments – Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center offers access to MD Anderson’s renowned treatment protocols and standards of care, right here in San Diego. Examples of advances in recent years include immunotherapies, targeted therapies, and more precise radiation therapy. They are now able to manage some cancers like a chronic disease.
  • Record Death Rate Decline in 2017 – The record drop we experienced in 2017 was largely driven by improvements in treating lung cancer, such as better scanning technology to better assess the stage of the tumor, so patients get the best treatment right away and more precise radiation therapy. For patients at later stages, new targeted drugs aimed at specific disease-causing genes.
  • Steady Death Rate Decline over last 26 years– This long-term drop in overall cancer death rates has been driven by declines in the 4 most common types of cancer – lung, colorectal, breast and prostate.