Pancreatic cancer is anticipated to move from the fourth to
second leading cause of cancer death in the United States
by 2020, and possibly as early as 2015. This alarming
finding appeared in a report the Pancreatic Cancer Action
Network’s Research and Scientific Affairs team compiled in
August 2012 based on information obtained from published
scientific literature. Go to
the full text of the report.
Why is this happening?
The projections for the rising
number of new cases and number of cancer deaths in the
coming years involve three different factors:
Demographics of the U.S.
The U.S. population will grow
and will age over the next 20 years. The good news is that
we are living longer, so a greater portion of Americans will
be over the age of 65. The not-so-good news is that these
older Americans will be at greater risk of getting cancer of
any type, including pancreatic. In addition, the proportion of
minorities in the population will also change, impacting the
risk of certain groups for developing cancer.
Changes in the rate at which new cases of cancer are
The number of new cases of cancer that
are diagnosed per 100,000 people is known as the incidence
rate. The incidence rate for cancer in general is decreasing
slightly for men, reflecting primarily a decrease in the
number of smoking-related cancers. However,
the incidence rate of pancreatic cancer is
increasing for both men and women. Experts
estimate that some of this increase is due to the
rising incidence of obesity in the U.S., but there
are other unknown factors that are contributing
to this steady increase in pancreatic cancer.
Changes in cancer deaths.
the cause of deaths of Americans is collected
regularly by the Center for Disease Control,
which tracks any increases or decreases in the
number of deaths per 100,000 people. The
good news is that the death rate from cancer
in general is decreasing, reflecting advances
in the prevention, early diagnosis, and/or
treatment of cancer. Unfortunately, pancreatic
cancer has not benefited from these advances,
and the death rate for pancreatic cancer is
increasing slightly for both men and women.
Putting it all together.
When we combined information on the
demographic changes in the U.S. population, and the rates of
incidence and deaths, we drew the conclusion shown in the
figure below. Pancreatic cancer is the only one of the current
top five cancer killers for which both the incidence rate and the
death rate are increasing, and therefore is the only one for which
the number of deaths is projected to continue to increase.
Since the number of deaths from breast and colorectal cancer
are decreasing, pancreatic cancer is projected to overtake
them as a cause of cancer death sometime before 2020 and
become second only to lung cancer.
What canwe do?
The good news is that we are not powerless
to change these statistics. While the shifting demographics
in the U.S. are not readily changeable, increased focus and
resources devoted toward pancreatic cancer research can
and will make an impact on the rate at which people lose
their lives to this disease.
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is committed to
maintaining our comprehensive strategy to raise awareness,
support patients, privately fund research, and pass legislation
to ensure that a comprehensive, long-term plan of action is in
place to provide the necessary resources and infrastructure
to support the fight against this disease.
PANCREATIC CANCER PROJECTED TO MOVE TO
THE SECOND LEADING CAUSE OF CANCER DEATH