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NCI’s Report to the Nation: Cancer Rates Continue to Decline, Liver Cancer the Exception
A new report from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for 1975-2012 emphasizes the continuing decline in cancer-related death rates for the majority of cancers combined, which is true for all major ethnic populations in the United States. However, the report also highlights a concern for the exception in this trend involving liver cancer.
The rate of overall decline in death cases between 2003 and 2012 was 1.5% for both sexes; the incidence of newly diagnosed cases of cancer also declined among men and remained stable in women during those years.
This continuing trend of decline in cancer-related deaths is attributed, in large part, to improvements in prevention efforts and early diagnosis, as well as improvements in current therapies. The emphasis on smoking cessation has helped to control the rates of lung cancer, still the leading cause of cancer-related death in men and in women,
The one exception to this trend is liver cancer, which is leading the growth in site-specific death rates; the incidence rates for liver cancer have increased dramatically between 2003 and 2012.
“The growing burden of liver cancer is troublesome. We need to do more work promoting hepatitis testing, treatment, and vaccination,” said Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The major findings related to liver cancer are:
- Between 2008 and 2012, the incidence of liver cancer increased by 2.3% annually overall; liver cancer–related death rate increased by 2.8% among men and 3.4% among women
- Liver cancer was diagnosed twice more in men than in women in all US ethnic groups
- The incidence rates of liver cancer from 2008 to 2012 were highest among non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaskan Native men
- Death rates related to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and liver cancer were 6 times higher among individuals born in 1945-1965 than in the rest of the adult US population; the majority of Americans who are infected with HCV were born in these decades.
“Research over the past decades has led to the development of several vaccines that, given at the appropriate ages, can reduce the risk of some cancers, including liver cancer,” said Douglas Lowy, MD, Acting Director of the NCI. “Determining which cancers can be effectively prevented by vaccines and other methods is one of our top priorities at NCI, and one which we believe will truly make a difference in cancer incidence and mortality trends.”
The CDC recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for HCV infection, a disease that can be cured with recently approved therapies, which could significantly reduce the risk for liver cancer.
: National Cancer Institute; March 9, 2016.
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A New Gene Variant May Explain Cancer-Related Outcomes in African-Americans
A new study published in Genes and Development
online (March 31, 2016) suggests that genetics rather than socioeconomics may explain why African-Americans have higher cancer-related death rates and a shorter survival duration in some types of cancers compared with other ethnic groups.
“We may finally have a truly genetic explanation for why African-Americans are more prone to a variety of cancers,” said lead investigator Maureen E. Murphy, PhD, Professor and Program Leader, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program, Wistar Cancer Center, Philadelphia, in a press release.
Dr Murphy and her team have been investigating the tumor suppressor protein p53 and how genetic polymorphisms in the p53 tumor suppressor gene that appear more often in African-Americans affect the ability of this gene to suppress tumor growth and apoptosis.
“This is a variant that has never been observed in Caucasian populations, so identifying people who have this variant may be crucial for providing improved prognosis and personalized treatment that will lead to better outcomes,” she said.
Using a mice model, the investigators found that 80% of the mice with this p53 variant developed cancer, with the most common types of cancer including liver cancer, colon cancer, and lymphoma. Liver cancer is more common in African-Americans than in other racial or ethnic groups, and colon cancer accounts for approximately 9% of all new cancers diagnosed in African-Americans, according to Dr Murphy and colleagues.
Emphasizing that these findings must be validated in humans, Dr Murphy added, “However, we now have some of the strongest evidence ever obtained for a genetic basis for this disparity, and a larger, population-based study is warranted.”
: American Cancer Society; March 31, 2016.
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