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Alarming Cancer Rise Among Blacks, Women But Overall Death Rates Drop

Sat., April 19, 1997

For the first time in history, overall cancer deaths are dropping and less-toxic, less-disfiguring treatments are available. But that good news is countered by alarming rises in deaths among women from lung cancer and black men from prostate cancer, the nation’s top cancer expert said in Detroit on Friday.

“We cannot be satisfied with seeing numbers go down unless it includes everyone in our society,” said Dr. Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute.

A 25-year war has made many cancers curable, including childhood leukemia and Hodgkin’s disease, Klausner said.

Breast cancer death rates are dropping - about 6.5 percent in the past five years, and 15 percent among women under 50, he said.

If the trends continue, cancer deaths will drop 20 to 25 percent in the next 20 years, experts say.

But Klausner cited reasons why research must continue:

African American men have the nation’s highest death rate from prostate cancer. Among blacks, deaths have risen 50 percent since 1973, compared to 23 percent among whites.

So many more women and girls smoke today than decades ago that deaths from lung cancer have soared 137 percent in recent years.

Too many decisions in cancer treatment are based on guesswork, Klausner said. Research needs to identify which treatments are the best for precise types of cancer.

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