Newly released statistics have shown that cancer mortality rates — including mortality rates linked to prostate cancer — have declined by 27 percent over the last 25 years due to advances in prostate cancer treatment.
First the Good News
The good news, shared by the American Cancer Society, is indeed cause for celebration. The Society’s research found that from 1991 through 2016, thanks to advances in prostate cancer treatment such as robotic prostatectomies, more than 2.6 million patients that could have otherwise died from cancer have instead survived. Nestled among those 2.6 million are numerous men that have survived prostate cancer diagnoses. In fact, prostate cancer became less fatal at a rate of around 51 percent from 1993 to 2016, a major accomplishment.
Some medical professionals have raised the question of how the 2011 decision to de-prioritize screening for prostate-specific antigen would affect prostate cancer diagnosis, treatment, and, ultimately, mortality rates. While diagnosis rates have declined slightly since the decision was made, mortality rates for prostate cancer have flattened from 2013 to 2016, indicating that the decision has not led to an appreciable uptick in prostate cancer-related deaths. This is yet another piece of good news, showcasing that our ability to treat prostate conditions has grown.
Not Quite All Sunshine and Roses
Declining cancer rates overall, and prostate cancer specifically, is indeed excellent news. Yet there are some not-so-bright spots as well, particularly when the study looked at cancer types associated with obesity. In fact, every cancer linked with obesity experienced increasing death rates. Additionally, one out of every three instances of liver cancer deaths have obesity as a contributing factor.
There are other causes for concern as well, with many of these coming down along ethnic or socioeconomic lines. Poverty-stricken communities have higher instances of smoking and obesity and are less likely to have access to affordable healthcare, resulting in higher mortality rates. Additionally, in 2016 cancer mortality rates for African-Americans were 14 percent higher overall when compared to white Americans, though this still compares favorably to the 33 percent disparity in 1993.
In this way, even some of the bad news is still pretty good. Closing the ethnic and socioeconomic gap can be resolved through better education and health care access, while new research is ongoing into treating the types of cancer we do know about. That includes prostate cancer. In another 25 years, we may be able to reduce that mortality rate even further!