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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1992 Mar 4;84(5):313-20.

Trends in cancer mortality in 15 industrialized countries, 1969-1986.

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709.



Assessing trends in cancer provides a means for gauging progress against the disease, estimating future demands for care and treatment, and suggesting clues about shifting causal factors that may account for the more recent changes.


This study was designed to evaluate trends in the major sites of cancer associated with high mortality rates in 15 industrialized countries. To highlight differences among regions, we grouped these countries into six geographic areas: United States, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, East Asia, Oceania, and Nordic countries. In addition, cancer mortality trends in these regions were compared with incidence patterns in the United States.


Data provided by the World Health Organization were used to evaluate age-specific mortality trends from 1969 through 1986 for lung, breast, prostate, stomach, and colorectal cancers and for all other sites considered as a group. We also assembled and analyzed data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute for the same sites and age groups from 1973 through 1986.


Over the period 1969 through 1986, recorded cancer mortality in persons aged 45 years and older in the six regions studied has increased for lung, breast, and prostate cancers in most age groups, while the decline in stomach cancer mortality is substantial. The increase in lung cancer deaths in men aged 45-54 years has slowed greatly or reversed in all areas except Eastern Europe and East Asia. Trends for intestinal cancer vary by age and region. For all other sites considered as a group, increases have occurred for persons older than 64 years in most regions. In Eastern Europe, there are disturbingly high rates and rapid increases for several of the major forms of cancer in persons aged 45-54 years. In general, trends for cancer incidence in the United States parallel those for mortality. For intestinal cancer, however, incidence has increased while mortality has declined.


The trends we report cannot be explained solely by changes in cigarette smoking or aging. Other causes of changes in cancer incidence and mortality need to be determined.


The increasing and decreasing trends in mortality from and incidence of cancer that we found are important for health care planning and may also suggest opportunities for research in cancer prevention.

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