As of 2009, the overall death rate for cancer in the U.S. had declined 20 percent from its peak in 1991, avoiding approximately 1.2 million deaths from cancer. These figures come from the American Cancer Society’s annual cancer statistics report.

The report—Cancer Facts & Figures 2013; and its companion article Cancer Statistics 2013, which was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians—compiled information on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival based on incidence data from NCI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

The report said that 152,900 deaths were avoided in 2009 alone. According to the study, a total of 1,660,290 new cancer cases and 580,350 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the U.S. in 2013.

Cancer death rates decreased from their peak of 215.1 per 100,000 in 1991 to 173.1 per 100,000 in 2009. Death rates continue to decline for all four major cancer sites: lung, colon and rectum, breast, and prostate.

Over the past two decades, death rates have decreased from their peak by more than 30 percent for cancers of the colorectum, female breast, and male lung, and by more than 40 percent for prostate cancer. These large drops are primarily due to reductions in smoking for lung cancer and to improvements in early detection and treatment for colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers.

Among men, cancers of the prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectum will account for half of all newly diagnosed cancers; prostate cancer alone will account for 28 percent (238,590) of incident cases in men. Among women, the three most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in 2013 will be breast, lung and bronchus, and colorectum, accounting for about half of all cases. Breast cancer alone is expected to account for 29 percent (232,340) of all new cancer cases among women.

While incidence rates are declining for most cancer sites, they are increasing among both men and women for melanoma of the skin and cancers of the liver, thyroid, and pancreas. Overall cancer incidence rates decreased slightly in males (by 0.6 percent per year) and were stable in females in the most recent five year period for which there is data (2005-2009).

Cancers of the lung and bronchus, prostate, and colorectum in men and cancers of the lung and bronchus, breast, and colorectum in women continue to be the most common causes of cancer death. These four cancers account for almost half of the total cancer deaths among men and women. In 2013, lung cancer is expected to account for 26 percent of all female cancer deaths and 28 percent of all male cancer deaths.

Cancer death rates decreased by 1.8 percent per year in males and by 1.5 percent per year in females during the most recent five years of data (2005-2009). These declines have been consistent since 2001 and 2002 in men and women, respectively, and are larger in magnitude than those occurring in the previous decade. Between 1990/1991 and 2009, cancer death rates decreased by 24 percent in men, 16 percent in women, and 20 percent overall.