(HealthDay News) – Death rates from cancer continue to decline in the United States, but the presence of comorbidity can be an important influence on overall survival, according to a report published online Dec. 16 in Cancer.

Brenda K. Edwards, PhD, from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD, and colleagues used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute, and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries to analyze cancer incidence and death rates from 1975–2010. Medicare data was also analyzed to determine the prevalence of comorbidity among cancer patients diagnosed from 1992–2005.

The researchers found that death rates continued to decline for all cancers combined, for most major sites, for both genders, and for all major racial and ethnic groups. Death rates fell by 1.5% per year from 2001–2010. Overall incidence rates declined in men and remained steady in women. The prevalence of comorbidity was highest among lung cancer patients (52.9%), similar for breast and prostate cancer patients (around 30%), and intermediate for colorectal cancer patients (40.7%). Age and comorbidity level were important influences on overall survival but varied depending on whether the cancer was local and regional or distant.

“Cancer death rates in the United States continue to decline,” Edwards and colleagues conclude. “Estimates of survival that include the probability of dying of cancer and other causes stratified by comorbidity level, age, and stage can provide important information to facilitate treatment decisions.”

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