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Cancer deaths on the decline

According to the American Cancer Society, the U.S. cancer death rate has fallen more than 30% since the 1990s.

DANVILLE, Pa. — Getting a cancer diagnosis can be one of the worst moments of a person's life. But a new report from the American Cancer Society gives promising results.

According to the report, the U.S. cancer death rate has fallen 33 percent since 1991. That corresponds to nearly four million cancer deaths averted.

The report attributes this to early detection, drops in smoking, and improvements in cancer treatment.

"It's innovation in both of those areas that's really helped give us every year it gets a little bit better," said Dr. Heath Mackley, vice chair of radiology oncology at Geisinger.

Dr. Mackley agrees with the report and has seen gradual improvements. He says a big part of that is better screening tests.

One example of that is breast cancer, as mammogram technology keeps getting better.

"The person still develops a cancer, but you find it earlier. Because you find it earlier, it's more curable," Dr. Mackley said.

The report also credits HPV vaccines with reducing cancer deaths. But even so, Dr. Mackley says cancer is right up there with cardiovascular conditions as the leading cause of death in the United States.

"But then we see more and more people getting their second or their third cancer and, so on some level, you still see a lot of cancer because it's still happening," Dr. Mackley said.

While he can't predict the future, Dr. Mackley says there is no reason to believe the trend won't continue.

"We're doing entire genome sequencing of the cancer and then seeing which drug can target the type of mutation that their cancer has," Dr. Mackley said.

Doctors are looking forward to even more advances in technology and how that will benefit patients.

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