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(NEW YORK) — Nearly 2 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed and some 609,000 people will likely die from cancer in the U.S. in 2022, according to a new report published Wednesday.
The annual report from the American Cancer Society estimates that 1,918,030 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, equivalent to 5,250 new cases being detected every day. This is up from approximately 1.8 million new cases that likely occurred in 2021.
Both figures — for cases and deaths — are the highest estimates made by the ACS since at least 2007.
Health experts have suggested that people missing cancer screenings and doctor’s appointments due to the COVID-19 pandemic may cause cancer rates to rise in the coming years.
However, Dr. Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society and corresponding author of the report, told ABC News that estimates were made based on complete data, which is only available through 2018 for cases and 2019 for deaths.
“We absolutely expect that the pandemic will impact cancer rates because of delays in screenings, and diagnoses because of health care closures, but we were not able to account for that yet,” she said.
She expects future reports will likely reflect the impacts of the pandemic.
Among the findings in the report is that cases of breast cancer have been slowly increasing by about 0.5% every year. In 2022, an estimated 290,560 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer, mostly women.
Siegel said this is not because of an increase in screenings that detect the cancer but rather because more women are having fewer children later in life — both of which are linked to an increased likelihood of breast cancer.
“It’s thought to be related to continued declines in the fertility rate, because the higher number of childbirths and the earlier age is protective against breast cancer, and we know that women are having children later and they’re having fewer children,” she said. “So that is likely contributing to this small increase.”
She added that higher body weight also increases the risk of breast cancer and that increasing rates of obesity are likely a contributing factor.
The report also showed disparities when it comes to communities of color. For example, Black women were 40% more likely to die of breast cancer despite having lower rates than white women.
Siegel said this is because minorities have traditionally had less access to high quality health care and that more effort needs to be placed in providing access to disadvantaged communities.
However, the report also had some bright spots. The risk of death from cancer overall has been declining continuously since 1991 with about 3.5 million cancer deaths avoided as of 2019.
“The population-level data seen in this report reflects our experience treating patients. Cancer has become a curable or chronic disease for more Americans,” Dr. Deb Schrag, Chair of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who was not involved in the report, told ABC News in a statement.
Additionally, although lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of death in the U.S. — with an estimated 350 deaths per day from lung cancer — the three-year survival rate has increased from 21% in 2004 to 31%.
Siegel said declines in smoking played a role, but the bigger factors are recent improvements in treatment and lung cancer being detected in early stages.
“One finding was that twice as many lung cancers are being detected at an early stage, and that means more patients are having their cancer detected when they’re the most treatable,” Dr. Lauren Byers, a lung cancer expert at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, who was not involved with the report, told ABC News.
Siegel said she hopes the new report encourages people to stay up-to-date on their cancer screenings.
“We have a lot of effective screening tests now to prevent deaths from cancer and so, while none of these tests is perfect, being up to date and talking with your doctor about when you should screen can really help reduce your risk of dying from cancer,” she said.
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