New data is providing fresh hope in the fight against cancer.
An annual report from the American Cancer Society reveals the cancer death rate fell 2.2% between 2016 and 2017 -- the largest ever single year decline.
Carolyn Bruzdzinski, vice president for Cancer Control for the American Cancer Society North Central Region, says the progress is encouraging and empowering, noting that cancer mortality rates have decreased 29% overall since 1991.
"That's 2.9 million people that did not die," she points out. "So, it is pretty exciting.
"Cancer is the one disease that we are seeing a decrease in death rates and mortality rates. If you look at any of the major chronic diseases, other areas have kind of plateaued."
The report cites reduced mortality for melanoma and lung cancer as a driver of the overall drop in cancer mortality rates.
Bruzdzinski says advances in cancer research and treatment options also are behind the decline, as well as advocacy efforts to improve access to health care.
She says unfortunately, progress slowed for colorectal, breast and prostate cancers, which are amenable to early detection.
"It is really critically important that we continue to educate and get people to go out and get screened," Bruzdzinski states. "Colorectal screening rates in Illinois here are still in the 60%. Breast cancer is around 70%.
"There's so many more people that should be getting screened, and that obviously leads to better outcomes."
Bruzdzinski says the findings show how the rapid expansion of cancer research can create better outcomes.
"Bottom line is, investment in research for across-the-board therapies and new ways of preventing and early detection and then putting those things into practice, having people adopt those cancer-preventing behaviors," she states.
Roughly 606,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer in 2020, including about 24,000 people in Illinois.