Cancer Rates: Is the Problem Getting Better or Worse?

Most people I know have an intuitive sense that cancer rates are going up. This point, however, has been charged with controversy, with medical authorities holding that any apparent increase is due to earlier and improved diagnostic procedures. In fact, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has said for years that cancer rates are declining in the United States, but a large-scale new study published in the NCI’s own journal (J Natl Cancer Inst 2002 Oct 16;94(20):1537-45) reveals that a series of reporting delays and errors hid the fact that rates are, in reality, rising. For example, the study found that, once corrections are made for a series of statistical inaccuracies, the rate of breast cancer in white women has been going up by 0.6 percent each year since 1987. Melanoma has been going up by 4.1 percent per year and prostate cancer in men by 2.2 percent.

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