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M.D. Anderson study predicts dramatic growth in cancer rate by 2030

A new M.D. Anderson study predicts a 45 per cent growth in the U.S. cancer rate over the next 20 years. A dramatic spike is predicted for the elderly and minority populations. Ed Mayberry reports.



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The number of new cancer cases diagnosed annually in the United States will increase from 1.6 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030, according to research from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  Dr. Ben Smith is adjunct assistant professor in M.D. Anderson’s Department of Radiation Oncology, but he’s a major in the U.S. Air Force Medical Corps, and is now serving as Chief of Radiation Oncology at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

“Age is the biggest risk factor for most cancers.  Older individuals are more likely to get cancer.  So as we look to the future with many more older individuals, there’ll many more cancers diagnosed.”

Ed: “And of course, that would be stressing the healthcare system further, I would think.”

“It’s very scary.  I think this will impose a tremendous stress on the healthcare system.  It’s been forecast that there are already anticipated shortages in cancer physicians by the year 2020, not to mention 2030.”

Dr. Smith says we need to learn how to treat cancer more cost-effectively…

“…so that we don’t impose too great a price on our society in treating patients with cancer.  And we also need to do a better job doing research, specifically focusing on how to treat cancer in older adults and in minority populations.”

Ed: “I think this also points out the role of screening, or I guess prevention strategies.”

“Exactly.  So there are some proven prevention strategies, such as mammography, screening for colorectal cancer with colonoscopy, screening for cervical cancer.  And as we anticipate the number of cancers going up, the best way to address that is to prevent those cancers from ever happening.”

The study says the same types of cancers will still be around for a while.

“In 2030, we project that the Big Three cancers will still be lung cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer.  But because some cancers are more common in older adults or in certain minority populations, there are some cancers that are going to be growing at a faster rate than other cancers. And we found specifically liver cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer to be among the most rapidly-growing cancers.  And that’s fairly scary, because those are some of the cancers that we’re not very good at treating.” 

In 2030, 70 per cent of all cancers will be diagnosed in the elderly and 28 per cent in minorities.  Dr. Smith’s study is published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.