The lung cancer death rate grows smaller every year. 

In 2021, a report from the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries showed that we’ve seen a 2.2 percent decrease in male deaths from cancer.

For women, the cancer death decrease is a little less than 2 percent over the past four years.

Young adults and adolescents have experienced a 0.9 percent decrease in cancer deaths, while rates in children have decreased by 1.4 percent. 

The stories of lung cancer and other cancer survival prove the efficient and hard work of cancer researchers, who are creating a real difference for people with cancer and survivors of it. 

A Radiologist Examines Chest X-rays in front of two colleagues
A Radiologist Examines Chest X-rays / Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

According to the National Institute of Health, the decline in lung cancer deaths is due to the public’s decrease in smoking and scientific advances made by doctors, nurses, and researchers.

The declining rate in all cancer deaths is also inclusive of all racial and ethnic groups.

Karen Knudsen, the Chief Executive Officer of the American Cancer Society, told the Center for Disease Control that “the declines in lung cancer and melanoma death rates are the result of progress across the entire cancer continuum — from reduced smoking rates to prevent cancer to discoveries such as targeted drug therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitor.” 

These advances and their subsequent results prove the impact that science, research, and the general medical community have on the human body. Scientists are the driving force behind maintaining human existence for the past 250 years.

Nurse Takes a Patient's Blood Pressure
Nurse Takes a Patient's Blood Pressure / Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

For women, children, and multiple marginalized communities who have often faced the brunt of fatal diseases, these milestone advances are life-changing. That means some of our most vulnerable communities are being protected by scientists and researchers. 

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) explained that the annual cancer report confirmed that death rates for children below the age of fifteen continue to decline.

NCI stated that “overall cancer incidence rates in children and AYAs [adolescent and young adults] increased in all racial/ethnic groups except American Indian/Alaska Native children where rates remained stable.”

Out of the 19 most common cancers in men, 11 of these conditions are causing less and less fatal consequences for its survivors. For women, who are often victim to 20 of the most common cancers, 14 of these conditions are experiencing a downwards trend. 

An African American cancer researcher looks through a microscope while an African American female researcher looks on.
A cancer researcher looks through a microscope while another researcher looks on. / Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Science is working, and researchers are working alongside scientists to create a world where cancer is entirely curable and non-fatal.

Knudsen explained that, in order to create a 0 percent death rate for cancer patients, everyone must be offered preventative health services.

“We must continue to find innovative ways to reach people across the cancer care continuum — from screening and early detection to treatment and support for survivors,” she said. 

According to a report by the National Cancer Institute, Black and African American communities have higher rates of general cancer deaths than any racial or ethnic group for most, but not all, cancer types.

Additionally, rates of smoking and drinking — which can cause lung and liver cancers — are higher among the LGBTQIA+ community than heterosexual people.

Three-Dimensional Landscape of Genome . HIPMap (high-throughput imaging position mapping) accurately determines the position of a gene in the three-dimensional (3D) space of the cell nucleus. In this illustration, images of genes (red, green, and blue spots within the nuclei of HeLa cells) are artificially superimposed on images of multi-well plates.
Three-Dimensional Landscape of Genome . HIPMap (high-throughput imaging position mapping) accurately determines the position of a gene in the three-dimensional (3D) space of the cell nucleus. In this illustration, images of genes (red, green, and blue spots within the nuclei of HeLa cells) are artificially superimposed on images of multi-well plates. / Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute, Created byTom Misteli, Sigal Shachar, and Murali Palangat.

Dismantling health disparities means understanding how marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by cancer.

According to Betsy Kohler, Executive Director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, it is critical to be conscious of social, economic, and other institutional factors that can prevent someone from making a doctor’s appointment, paying for hospital bills, or accessing insurance.

“Social and economic indicators, particularly based on small area assessments, are increasingly important to understanding the burden of cancer,” Kohler explained

To make even greater advancement in the declining death rates, the National Cancer Institute is working on early detection research for all patients who may have lung cancer. 

These preventative measures include CT scans, markers in blood and sputum, and computer programs which can detect more detailed diagnoses of cancer.

A male Asian radiologist looking at computed tomography (CT) scans.
A radiologist looking at computed tomography (CT) scans. / Photo courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Effective treatment of lung cancer includes options like surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and immunotherapy — all of which, through research, have been proven effective in several cases of lung cancer.

The Institute has also created NCI-funded research programs which are ‘seeking ways to address lung cancer more effectively.’ 

The research targets the biological substrates of lung cancer, as well as the social factors that can expose people to the risk of cancer or prevent them from seeking assessment and treatment.

That means the more research that’s collected, the more progress can be made in preventative and treatment services, leading to a steeper rapid decline of lung cancer deaths.

And that means the hope for more cancers to decrease in deaths grows greater each day.

Science is creating a real and tangible impact on the lives of cancer patients. We must continue offering accessible and equitable services that can help create a survivable world for everyone, regardless of race, class, age, or gender. 

All vintage archive imagery courtesy of the National Cancer Institute