Death Rate From Cancer Down 20% Since 1980, But Clusters of High Mortality Remain

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The mortality rate due to cancer is falling nationwide, but worrisome pockets of deadly malignancy persist — and in some places have worsened — in regions throughout the country, according to the first-ever county-by-county analysis of cancer deaths across the United States.

Eighteen-year-old cancer patient Patrick McGill lies in his hospital bed while receiving IV chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center Children's Hospital Aug. 18, 2005, in San Francisco. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Eighteen-year-old cancer patient Patrick McGill lies in his hospital bed while receiving IV chemotherapy treatment for a rare form of cancer at the UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center Children’s Hospital Aug. 18, 2005, in San Francisco. (Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

The death rate attributed to various types of cancer declined 20 percent between 1980 and 2014, according to research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Assn. During that time, the number of cancer deaths per 100,000 Americans dropped from 240.2 in 1980 to 192 in 2014.

Cancer, the No. 2 cause of death in the United States, has long been tracked by health officials. But existing databases have largely measured such statistics on state or national levels.

That can mask cancer trends that cross state borders, or that bubble up in geographically limited “hot spots.” It can also obscure associations with environmental exposures, ethnic settlement patterns or health behaviors like poor diet that may be unique to a single county or shared only with its near neighbors.

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