01/04/2012 05:40 pm ET

Cancer Deaths Decreasing, Report Shows

A large new report on cancer is showing a hopeful trend: Deaths from cancer are decreasing.

Cancer deaths decreased by 1.8 percent for men each year between 2004 and 2008, and 1.6 percent for women, according to the American Cancer Society report. Cancer cases decreased by 0.6 percent each year for men and didn't decrease or increase for women during the study period.

Deaths from lung cancer decreased the most, accounting for 40 percent of the total decline in cancer deaths for men and 34 percent of those for women, according to the Cancer Statistics 2012 report. Colorectal, breast and prostate cancer deaths also decreased.

"This is really very exciting," report co-author Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society told ABC News. "Of course, the decrease is due to improvements in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment."

The report, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, estimates that because of continued declines in cancer deaths between 1991/1992 and 2008, about 1,024,400 deaths from cancer were prevented.

However, there are still 1,638,910 new cases of cancer and 577,190 deaths from cancer projected for the coming year, according to the report.

In addition, a Special Section also published in the journal shows that rates of some less-common cancers increased over the study period. Cancers of the pancreas, thyroid, liver and kidney, as well as the skin cancer melanoma, all increased between 2004 and 2008. Esophageal adenocarcinoma and some subsites of oropharyngeal cancer (linked with the human papillomavirus, or HPV) also increased.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek explains the possible reason for this:

While higher incidences of pancreatic, liver and esophageal cancers may be the result of added testing or rising obesity, it's not clear why other less-common cancers are growing in prevalence, the report said. People are living longer so lifestyle choices at earlier ages and viruses they were exposed to, such as hepatitis or the human papillomavirus, may spur tumors as people get older, the report suggested.

Recently, a study conducted by the American Association for Cancer Research showed that half of all cancer deaths are preventable by changing things like diet, sedentary lifestyle and other personal behaviors. Reduced smoking has already helped to save lives.

[Flickr/Wikimedia] photo by eyesplash.