Cancer death rates continue to decline across the country, including Southwest Virginia

Local News

SALEM, Va. (WFXR) – Fewer people are dying from cancer in the United States every year.

According to the latest data from the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate declined by 29% since 1991, including a significant 2.2% drop – the largest single-year reduction ever recorded.

The three million fewer cancer deaths are largely due in decline in deaths from the leading cancer types including breast, prostate, and colon.

However, local experts say it’s largely because of a decline in lung cancer and earlier screenings.

“If you’re a current smoker, greater than 30-years-old, ages 55-74, or if you stopped smoking within the past 15 years, you qualify for a screening CT scan,” says Dr. Nelson Greene, who specializes in pulmonary medicine and critical care at LewisGale Medical Center. “What we’ve found is that, if we can do that [scan], we can take patients from Stage 3 and 4 diseases to Stage 1 disease and potentially cure them.”

With additional screenings, consultations, treatments, and prevention programs, patients are able to have a better chance of fighting lung cancer.

Dr. Greene says extra screenings aren’t the only contributing factor to declining cancer rate deaths.

“The other thing that has contributed to less lung cancer, is the sensation of smoking. We’re seeing less people smoke now, which has helped,” he says.

According to a study by JAMA Internal Medicine, adult smokers who use vaping products are more likely to quit using cigarettes. Although Dr. Greene acknowledges that vaping could be a reason why fewer people are smoking tobacco, he doesn’t recommend it if someone is trying to quit, particularly with the short-term and unknown long-term effects it may have.

He also says the declining trend is likely to continue in the coming years.

“I think we’re going to see significant drops in lung cancer over the next five to 10 years,” says Dr. Greene.

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