Cancer death rates keep falling in the United States, but people with the least education are still twice as likely to die as their better-off neighbors, the American Cancer Society reported on Thursday.
The group estimated that nearly 900,000 people escaped an early death from cancer between 1990 and 2007 because of the progress in preventing, detecting, and treating cancer. Nonetheless, cancer remains the No. 2 cause of death in the United States.
The projection for 2011: 1.56 million people will be diagnosed with cancer, and 571,950 will die of it.
“Overall cancer incidence rates were stable in men in the most recent time period after decreasing by 1.9 percent per year from 2001 to 2005; in women, incidence rates have been declining by 0.6 percent annually since 1998,” the society said in a statement.
But education – usually a marker for affluence – was important, the group said: “In 2007, cancer death rates in the least-educated segment of the population were 2.6 times higher than those in the most-educated.”
The group added, “This disparity was largest for lung cancer, for which the death rate was five times higher in the least educated than for the most educated.”
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer globally and in the United States. The report said that 31 percent of men with a high school education or less smoke, compared with 12 percent of male college graduates and 5 percent of men with graduate degrees.
For men, prostate, lung, and colon cancer account for more than half of all cancer diagnoses; for women, the three most common types are breast, lung, and colon cancer.
About 44 percent of all men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, compared with 38 percent of all women.