New Report Shows Decline in Cancer Deaths, with More Than 18 Million Cancer Survivors in the U.S.

·4-min read
A woman is indoors in her living room. Her head is shaved due to chemotherapy. She is sitting and looking thoughtful.
A woman is indoors in her living room. Her head is shaved due to chemotherapy. She is sitting and looking thoughtful.

getty A person with alopecia

The rate of cancer deaths in the U.S. is declining, with more than 18 million survivors of the disease across the country.

According to a new Annual Progress Report from the American Association for Cancer Research published Wednesday, the association has seen "evidenced unprecedented progress" against cancer in the last decade.

"Remarkable advances across the spectrum of medical research, enabled by decades of federal investments, have led to profound improvements in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment," AACR's President Lisa M. Coussens and Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti wrote in the report's introduction.

The report continued, "As a result, the U.S. cancer death rate is steadily declining, and more people than ever before are living longer and fuller lives after a cancer diagnosis." In fact, cancer mortality has been on a 2.3 percent decrease every year between 2016 and 2019.

As of January 2022, there are a record-breaking 18 million cancer survivors in the U.S. In comparison, there were only 3 million US cancer survivors in 1971, the report states.

RELATED: Health Panel Recommends Regular Anxiety Screenings for Adults Under 65

The report cited "federal funding for medical research, supported primarily by investments in the National Institutes of Health" as the necessary base for "researchers to decode the biological complexities of cancer" and to increase "the pace at which this knowledge is being integrated to transform outcomes for patients."

Among the advances, AACR listed the rapidly expanding field of anticancer therapeutics and the growing use of immunotherapies.

"Several of these groundbreaking therapeutics highlight how researchers are rapidly harnessing the knowledge gleaned from discovery science to transform patient outcomes," Coussens and Foti wrote. For example, the message detailed that between August 2021 and July 2022, eight new therapeutics had been approved by the FDA.

They continued, "Expansion of our knowledge of the immune system and its interactions with other cells within a tumor will continue to shape the future of immunotherapy and lead to more breakthroughs for patients."

"Basic research discoveries have driven the remarkable advances that we've seen in cancer medicine in recent years," Coussens said in a statement. "Targeted therapies, immunotherapy, and other new therapeutic approaches being applied clinically all stem from fundamental discoveries in basic science. Investment in cancer science, as well as support for science education at all levels, is absolutely essential to drive the next wave of discoveries and accelerate progress."

RELATED VIDEO: Jane Fonda's Cancer Diagnosis Is 'Hardly Slowing Her Down,' Says Source

Despite the progress being made in the area in recent years, the report highlights the "significant threat" cancer still poses to people around the world. "In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that more than 600,000 lives will be lost to cancer in 2022," the statement added, noting that the number will continue to increase due to the population getting older.

The report also acknowledged how cancer advances "have not benefited everyone equally."

"Racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved U.S. populations shouldering a disproportionally higher burden of cancer," the statement said. "While advances have been made in identifying, understanding, and addressing some of these disparities, more research — along with policy solutions — are urgently needed to ensure equitable progress against cancer."

The AACR also spoke out about the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade and how it may affect cancer rates. "Restricting reproductive rights will have serious detrimental effects on access to quality health care, including for patients with cancer," they wrote. "Reluctance or delay in starting cancer treatment because that treatment may lead to the termination of a pregnancy could lead to cancer progression, making it more difficult to treat and more likely to threaten the life of the woman."

Lastly, the study also highlighted the impact of the COVID-19, noting that the pandemic has "impacted all aspects of cancer research and patient care."

RELATED: COVID-19 May Be Nearing the End of Its Pandemic Phase, World Health Organization Says

As a conclusion to the report, the AACR made recommendations regarding the future of cancer research, which included sustained annual funding from the NIH and NCI.

The other solutions also included to "reauthorize the comprehensive Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research Act," to "invest in vital cancer-related initiatives at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA," to "expand Medicaid to ensure that patients with cancer have equitable access to quality, affordable health care" and to "structure tax policies to encourage philanthropic giving."

Another recommendation also encouraged funding initiatives "authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act." These initiatives include President Biden's Cancer Moonshot that he kicked on in February.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up to date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

"Thanks to the bipartisan leadership in Congress that has delivered steady, significant annual funding increases for NIH in recent years, we have never been in a better position to take lifesaving cancer science from the bench to the clinic," Foti said at the end of the statement. "Ensuring that medical research remains a high priority for our nation's policymakers is vital if we are to maintain the momentum in advances against cancer, especially as we recover from the devastating impact of COVID-19 on cancer research and patient care."