The cancer rate in the United States dropped continuously over a 25-year period, representing a 27 percent decline, according to a study published Tuesday.
The study from the American Cancer Society found there were approximately 2.6 million fewer cancer deaths in the U.S. since reaching a peak of 215 deaths per 100,000 people.
The most recently available data, which is from 2016, found 156 deaths per 100,000 people. The report estimates 1.8 million new cancer cases and more than 600,000 deaths this year.
The American Cancer Society cites steady declines in smoking, advances in treatment and early detection for the continuous dip.
Dr. Harold Burstein, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and physician with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, said “tremendous improvements” have been made in therapeutic treatments for cancer.
“We have made public health investments to either prevent the cancer or early detection,” Burstein said .
The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal “CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.”
The study also found while racial gaps in cancer mortality are shrinking, gaps based on wealth are getting bigger as residents in poorer U.S. counties bear a greater burden of cancer deaths. For example, the study found lung and liver cancer mortality is 40 percent higher in men living in poor counties.
“We need to find ways to reach out to communities that have historically had not as much access to good health care,” Burstein said.
Meanwhile, some cancers that have been linked to obesity, including liver and pancreatic, showed signs of an increase. Between 2012 and 2016, the death rate for liver cancer rose 1.2 percent among men and 2.6 percent among women, while the rate for pancreatic cancer rose 0.3 percent among men.
Last September, the World Health Organization said nearly 10 million people would die of cancer in 2018. Along with an aging population, WHO cites economies where causes for cancer were tied more to lifestyle than poverty.
Burstein said although there is still work to do, the medical industry has made significant progress treating the disease. “For a long time, there was a nihilism that we are not winning the war of cancer,” he said. “We are winning the war.”
Brett Molina, USA TODAY