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Monday, December 17, 2007

From American Cancer Society: Cancer figures for 2007

Cancer Facts & Figures 2007 has been released, and it shows that I was joined in cancerland by an estimated 12,000,000 fellow earthlings this past year. Another estimated 7.6 million around the world died during the year from cancer. The news reports covering this story say that the rate of cancer diagnosis and deaths outlined in the report show a major increase, but you have to be careful every time you read statistics. The ACS includes this caution about the 2007 report:

"Caution: It is very important to note the information below. 1) Beginning with Cancer Facts & Figures 2007, estimated new cancer cases were computed using a new, more accurate method developed by researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. Improvements in the new model include use of data from a much larger percentage of the US population, allowance for geographical variation in cancer incidence, adjustment for delays in reporting, and the inclusion of many socio-demographic, medical facility, lifestyle, and cancer screening behavior variables. ...(please read the rest on the website)... The new approach will result in an increase of about 20% in age-adjusted annual incidence rates for all cancers combined and for the most common cancer sites. It will also somewhat affect racial and ethnic differences."

The weird thing is - even with tumor registries and methods available to count just about everything, including just about every hair on a person's head, that number of 12 million is an estimate, not a fixed number. Due to all the variances of reporting systems, this is the best estimate that can be achieved, and is one of many other statistics that will be quoted in many grant applications to support research in the coming months.

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