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NCI Reports on Nation's Progress Against Cancer

The National Cancer Institute has released Cancer Progress Report 2001, the first in a new series of reports designed to make scientific information on cancer more accessible and understandable. The report, released Dec. 4 at a meeting of the National Cancer Advisory Board, succinctly describes and illustrates the nation's progress in reducing the cancer burden across the full cancer continuum, from prevention through the impact of deaths from cancer.

"Overall, Cancer Progress Report 2001 paints a positive picture," said Barbara Rimer, director of NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences. "Highlighting important cancer control indicators, the report shows how the rates of both new cancers and cancer deaths are falling overall, due to factors such as the growing adoption of state-of-the-art cancer treatments, reduced cigarette smoking by adults and increased screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. Both smoking and getting screened for cancer are related to behaviors over which individuals have control."

But the report also illustrates where the nation is not making progress or is losing ground, Rimer said. For example, greater efforts are needed to reduce tobacco use, especially among youth where there appears to be a recent promising decline in cigarette smoking. Rising rates of some cancers, such as esophageal cancer and melanoma skin cancer, must be addressed. Other areas that need attention include increased overweight and obesity, inadequate protection of the skin from sunlight, and unexplained cancer-related health disparities between some population subgroups in the U.S. population.

"The Cancer Progress Report is an effort to publish, in one place, the most up-to-date information on the nation's progress against cancer," said Dr. Robert Hiatt, DCCPS deputy director and chair of NCI's Cancer Progress Report working group.

The report presents measures of progress based on scientific evidence that is, in most cases, the product of long-term national data collection and analysis efforts by NCI, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other federal agencies, professional groups and cancer researchers.

Hiatt said the measures are organized along the cancer continuum in the areas of prevention (behavioral and environmental), early detection, diagnosis, life after cancer and end of life. Treatment measures are not included in the report because few have been tracked at a national level. "The report describes ongoing research activities that will lead to evidence-based treatment measures, which will appear in future editions of the report," he said.

Hiatt said that where possible, the report compares the most recent estimates with the cancer-related targets of Healthy People 2010, a comprehensive set of 10-year objectives for the nation, sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services. Special color-coded graphics in the "Highlights" summary section show whether each trend is going in the desired direction and how the nation's progress compares to the Healthy People 2010 targets.

"Cancer Progress Report 2001 tells the nation where we are now and identifies research, policy and practice gaps that can help us plan for the future," said Hiatt. "The public can use the report to better understand the nature of cancer and the results of strategies to fight it. Policymakers can review past efforts and plan future ones; and researchers, clinicians and public health providers can focus on the gaps and opportunities identified to pave the way to future progress against cancer."

The report resulted from recommendations by NCI's cancer control program review group and surveillance implementation group to develop a national progress report on the cancer burden. Free copies may be ordered by calling 1-800-4-CANCER; to view the online version visit The web version will be updated every 6 to 12 months, and the print version will be revised and published every 2 years.

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