November 22, 2009

TEATS, MEET BULL:

As Other Death Rates Fall, Cancer’s Scarcely Moves (GINA KOLATA, 4/24/09, NY Times)

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that death rates over the past 60 years — the number of deaths adjusted for the age and size of the population — plummeted for heart disease, stroke, and influenza and pneumonia. But for cancer, they barely budged.

The cancer death rate, now about 200 deaths a year per 100,000 people of all ages and 1,000 deaths per 100,000 people over age 65 — is nearly the same now as it was in 1950, dropping only 5 percent. But the death rate from heart disease is only a third of what it was in 1950. Even though more people die of heart disease than from cancer, cancer deaths have been edging closer to heart disease deaths each year.

Are the statistics lying, hiding major advances because of the way the data are analyzed?

No, researchers say.

Death rates are not perfect — no measure is. But they are considered the purest measure. That is one reason groups like the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute use death rates rather than something else, like the number of people living with cancer, to assess progress in fighting the disease.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 22, 2009 8:26 AM
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