(HealthDay News) — More people are being diagnosed with and dying from cancer, but this is largely the result of declines in mortality from other causes, according to a study published online January 13 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Samir Soneji, PhD, from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, NH, and colleagues utilized data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results registries to identify annual breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancer mortality rates. National death certificates from 1975 to 2005 were used to assess noncancer mortality rates.

The researchers found that declining cancer mortality rates reduced the burden of mortality from leading cancers, but this progress was offset by cancer incidence increases as a result of decreasing other-cause mortality rates. For instance, the burden of lung cancer in males declined by 0.1 year of life lost between 1985–1989 and 2000–2004. Two factors contributed to this decline: decreasing lung cancer mortality rates that reduced the average burden of lung cancer mortality by 0.33 years of life lost and declining other-cause mortality rates that raised it by 0.23 years. Similar patterns were seen with other common cancers.

“By using a measure that accounts for increased cancer incidence as a result of improvements in cardiovascular disease mortality, we find that prior assessments have underestimated the impact of cancer interventions,” the authors write.

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