Progress Against Cancer: A Snapshot
Four decades ago, the passage of the National Cancer Act of 1971 led to major new U.S. investments in cancer research. Since that time, we have seen a dramatic improvement in our biological understanding of cancer and many important advances in our ability to treat and prevent the disease.
As a result, more people are surviving cancer than ever before.
Today, two out of three people live at least five years after a cancer diagnosis, up from roughly one out of two in the 1970s. There are nearly 12 million survivors in the United States alone. Fueled by earlier detection and better treatments, the nation's cancer death rate has dropped 18 percent since the early 1990s, reversing decades of increases.
Despite the important progress to date, cancer remains one of the world’s most serious health problems. In the United States, approximately 500,000 people still die from cancer every year, and the disease is expected to become the nation's leading killer in the years ahead. Worldwide, the number of new cancer cases is projected to rise from 12.7 million in 2008 to more than 20 million by 2030.
Many forms of cancer remain hard to detect until their advanced stages, when treatment is generally less effective. Others have remained stubbornly resistant to available treatments. In fact, some of the cancers highlighted in the Timeline section of this site have proved to be among the toughest challenges for researchers, and continue to take a significant toll on patients.
Continued investments in cancer research are needed to translate recent scientific breakthroughs into new treatments that can address these remaining gaps. Read more about what is needed in the Blueprint section of this site.
We must also ensure that everyone with cancer has access to important research advances. Today, many Americans lack adequate insurance coverage for cancer care, as the cost of care continues to increase. And while the nation has begun to make progress in addressing glaring racial disparities, these gaps in cancer care and survival remain significant.