Here's something I didn't know about cancer and I'll bet you didn't know either until now:
”...the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with the disease is slightly higher for men than for women, with adult height accounting for about a third of the difference. Studies have shown that taller people have a greater risk of cancer.
Hmmph. Being only 5 feet, two inches tall didn't help me.
It's still a great little factoid to have and it is from a story in the Washington Post about the annual report from the American Cancer Society - this year titled Cancer Facts and Figures 2018.
You're probably not surprised to know that since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last June, I've become more interested in cancer generally so I've been looking at news stories more carefully.
The disease, in its many forms, has been frustratingly difficult to treat, let alone cure – physicians have been trying to do so since at least 2500 BC. In the four-plus millennia that have followed, science has been able to reduce the incidences of many childhood diseases, of tuberculosis and of small pox, for example, to almost none.
But cancer, the number two killer in the United States, continues to be intractable.
Even so and as excruciatingly slow as it is, there has been positive change. The Post again:
”Overall, the cancer death rate has dropped from 215.1 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 158.6 per 100,000 in 2015.
“The nation's overall cancer death rate declined 1.7 percent in 2015, the latest indication of steady, long-term progress against the disease, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society.
“Over nearly a quarter-century, the mortality rate has fallen 26 percent, resulting in almost 2.4 million fewer deaths than if peak rates had continued...
“Even so, an estimated 609,000 people are expected to die of the ailment this year, while 1.74 million will be diagnosed with it.
Here is a chart of the number deaths from certain cancers expected during 2018:
After heart disease, cancer is the second leading cause of death overall in the U.S. but there are disparities of varying degrees among racial and age groups. As the Post notes, the 2015 mortality rate was 14 percent higher in blacks than white, but was 33 percent at its peak in 1993. However,
”...that trend masks significant disparities among age groups. Among people 65 and older, the death rate for blacks was 7 percent higher than for whites, a smaller disparity that likely reflects the effects of Medicare's universal health-care access.
“Among Americans younger than 65, the mortality rate was almost a third higher among blacks than whites — with even larger disparities in many states.”
Eventually, cancer affects just about everyone in the United States. Forty percent of Americans will, in their lifetimes, be diagnosed with one form of the disease or another making it almost impossible for anyone but a hermit to not have a relative, friend or neighbor who is afflicted.
In my case, both my parents died of cancer – breast and liver for my mother; liver and pancreatic for my father. Although I'm grateful to have been extraordinarily healthy throughout my 76 years until the diagnosis, it's hard to see how I could escape the family fate especially since I smoked for many years.
When I underwent a simultaneous endoscopy and colonoscopy last week to determine the details of an internal bleed, I was asked – as I had been just prior to my Whipple surgery in June – to give permission for the doctors to remove some small pieces of tissue for study.
Of course, I agreed both times. It's the least I can do to help researchers coax this “emperor of all maladies” to give up its horrible secrets.
The full report from the American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2018, is available here.