Cancer is one of the ten biggest killers in the United States in 2006. Cancer (23 percent) has almost caught up with heart disease shows the death rates from cancer in men and women (adjusted for the size and age of the population) since 1975; the cancer death rates have declined in men but not in women. The decline in men is largely due to fewer lung cancer deaths in men due to less smoking However, there were about 200,000 more deaths from cancer in 2006 than 1975 because of the substantial increase in the U.S. population.
These summary statistics show that the war on cancer has not gone well. This is in marked contrast to death rates from stroke and cardiovascular disease (adjusted for the age and size of the population), which have fallen by 74 percent and 64 percent, respectively, from 1950 through 2006; and by 60 percent and 52 percent, respectively, from 1975 through 2006 (Kolata 2009a). These excellent results against stroke and heart disease are mainly due to improvements in drug therapy, especially the control of high blood pressure to prevent stroke and the use of statins, aspirin, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors (now all generic) to prevent and treat heart disease. Cancer therapy is clearly decades behind. However, these data conceal a great deal of useful information and do not provide guidance on how to make progress against cancer.