“Cancer Mortality Still Declining, but Progress Threatened by Increasing Incidence as Projected New Cancer Cases Top Two Million for 2024.” Thus read a headline from the American Cancer Society (ACS) promoting its “Cancer Statistics, 2024.” Of note, the report found that colorectal cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death in men under 50 and the second in women under 50, following breast cancer.

What’s more, cancer disparities remain a challenge. For example, compared with white people, mortality rates for Black individuals are twofold higher for prostate, stomach and uterine corpus (endometrial) cancers.

“We’re encouraged by the steady drop in cancer mortality as a result of less smoking, earlier detection for some cancers and improved treatment,” said surveillance researcher Rebecca Siegel, MPH, the report’s lead author, in an ACS press statement. “But as a nation, we’ve dropped the ball on cancer prevention, as incidence continues to increase for many common cancers—like breast, prostate and endometrial as well as colorectal and cervical cancers in some young adults.”

ACS highlighted additional findings:

  • Cervical cancer incidence rates are decreasing steeply in women in their 20s, who were the first to receive the HPV vaccine.
  • After decades of increase, cancer incidence in children has finally leveled off, although rates continue to increase among adolescents ages 15 to 19 years.
  • Mortality rates continue to increase by 2% per year for uterine corpus cancer, one of the few cancers with increasing mortality. Steeper increases in women of color are widening racial disparities.
  • Cancer patients are getting younger: During 2019 to 2020, the proportion of cancer diagnoses in people who are middle-aged (50 to 64 years) increased from 25% in 1995 to 30%, whereas the proportion of cancer diagnoses among people 65 years and older decreased from 61% to 58%, despite both age groups growing in the general population. This shift reflects steep decreases in the incidence of prostate cancer and smoking-related cancers in older adults as well as increased cancer incidence in people born after the 1950s and related to higher obesity rates and other yet unknown factors.