Cancer Rates Down for Adults, Up for Children

Saturday, June 16, 2012

One million Californians have a history of cancer and while the cancer rate for adults is going down, the rate for children is going up.

In a report that tracks cancer in the state for two decades, between 1989 and 2009, the California HealthCare Foundation noted a 9% decrease in new cancer cases among adults—from 456 per 100,000 residents in 1989 to 413 per 100,000 in 2009—which epidemiologists largely attribute to a decline in California smokers. But children experienced a 15.6% increase in new cancer cases, climbing from 15.4 cases per 100,000 children in 1989 to 17.8 cases in 2008. Although the cancer rate for kids was up, the mortality rate was down 21.6%, from 3.7 cases per 100,000 to 2.9.

Researchers are unclear why cancer in children, which is usually leukemia (cancer of the blood),  is on the rise. Internationally, 35% of childhood cancer is leukemia, and brain tumors is second. Genetics and environmental factors, such as pesticide exposure during pregnancy, are leading suspects but no definitive numbers exist yet.

The report also found widespread racial disparities in cancer incidence and mortality.

African-Americans were just about as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as whites, but 30% more likely to die from it. And whites were 41% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than Latinos and 29% more likely to die. Whites were more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than blacks, but the death rate for blacks with breast cancer was 40% higher than whites. Black men were twice as likely to die from prostate cancer as white men.

Heart disease maintains its #1 ranking as the leading cause of death among Californians, but declined 15.9% between 1999 and 2009 to 58,801, while cancer increased 5.4% over the same period to 55,753. Half of all cancers in California were either in the breast or prostate in 2009.   

–Ken Broder

To Learn More:

One Million Lives: Cancer in California (California Healthcare Foundation) (pdf)

As Adult Cancer Cases Drop, Rates Go Up Among Children (by Christina Jewett, California Watch)

Report: Cancer Cases Up Among Calif. Children, Down for Adults (California HealthLine)

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