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PAMF M.D. Reacts to Report on Drop in U.S. Cancer Death Rates

Death rates from cancer are continuing to decrease, according to the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, published online on January 7, 2013, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The decline in cancer death rates was attributed to treatment advances and better screening.

Edmund Tai, M.D., an oncologist at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Cancer Care Center in Mountain View, California, responded to the report.

Dr. Edmund Tai (right) is an oncologist at PAMF’s Mountain View Center

“Among the major cancers such as breast, prostate and colon cancers, strides have been made over the past 10 years,” said Dr. Tai. “More effective screening has resulted in more patients being diagnosed at an earlier stage, hence more cures. 

“Improved treatment has also resulted in improved survival of cancer patients. In addition, the treatment of more advanced disease has dramatically improved. Patients benefit from targeted therapy, such as Her2+ breast cancer, and Rituxin in lymphoma patients. 

“We can look continued improvements in cancer survival because the research pipeline is robust in targeted therapies. In other cancers, we still have much work to do. Even though the progress is less dramatic in some areas, it is nonetheless encouraging.”

According to the report, deaths from cancer began slowly dropping in the 1990s, and the trend is holding. Among men, cancer death rates have dropped by 1.8 percent a year between 2000 and 2009, and by 1.4 percent a year among women. The drops are due to gains against some of the leading types of cancers — lung, colorectal, breast and prostate — because of treatment advances and better screening.

The report also indicates that deaths are increasing for several cancer types including liver, pancreatic and melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer. It also highlights that oral and anal cancers caused by HPV, the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, are on the rise among both genders. HPV is better known for causing cervical cancer, and a protective vaccine is available.

At the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, cancer care is delivered within a multidisciplinary care team environment, involving a group of highly skilled professionals that specialize in specific types of cancer. PAMF recently became one of the first oncology practices in the nation to be recognized by the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) Certification Program, an affiliate of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Reporters interested in interviewing Dr. Tai about cancer trends and treatment can contact:

Cynthia Greaves

PAMF Public Affairs

650-934-8614

greavec@pamf.org