[Cancer] mortality has been systematically decreasing among younger individuals for many decades. … the cancer mortality rates for 30 to 59 year olds born between 1945 and 1954 was 29% lower than for people of the same age born three decades earlier.  … substantial changes in cancer mortality risk across the life span have been developing over the past half century in the United States. … this analysis suggests that efforts in prevention, early detection, and/or treatment have significantly affected our society’s experience of cancer risk.1

Cancer mortality by birth cohort

All-site cancer rates in successive birth cohorts by age of death.
Mortality rates for decadal birth cohorts between 1925 and 2004 are plotted by age at death.


The mortality decline we describe in this paper cannot therefore be attributed to an overall decline in cancer incidence. Rather, the net improvement in cancer mortality in birth cohorts born since 1925 seems to reflect a succession of public health and medical care efforts. 1

They point to reduction in smoking, effective treatment of childhood leukemias and lymphomas and testicular cancers of young adulthood, and “increasingly successful screening programs for breast, prostate, and colon cancer” as important factors, and add “We are optimistic that ongoing efforts in very early cancer prevention (such as use of HB and human papillomavirus vaccines), as well as ongoing clinical trials of targeted therapies, will preserve the downward trend of cancer mortality“.

  1. Kort, E., Paneth, N., & Vande Woude, G. (2009). The Decline in U.S. Cancer Mortality in People Born since 1925 Cancer Research, 69 (16), 6500-6505 DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-0357[][][]