In 1993, about 39 in every 1,000 American men died from the cancer that starts in the walnut-sized gland between the bladder and the penis. Often that’s where the cancer stops; but in some men it progresses and can be life-threatening. With advances in treatment, though, the death toll was halved to under 20 per 1,000 by 2012.
But, “in 2013, we noticed that the slope or the speed with which this rate of prostate cancer mortality declined in the past, kind of changed,” says Dr. Serban Negoita, chief of the U.S. National Cancer Institute’s Data Quality, Analysis and Interpretation Branch. Negoita is the lead author of the prostate cancer section for the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer released last month. That report found that “age-adjusted prostate cancer death rates leveled off … and were all around 19 per 100,000 for the most recent years captured,” he says. Rates still declined from 19.56 in 2012 to 19.26 in 2013, 19.1 in 2014 and 18.92 in 2015, but the decrease wasn’t statistically significant.
What’s more, even as the overall incidence of prostate cancer continues to decline, the rate of late-stage disease increased between 2010 and 2014, according to the Status of Cancer report. More men (about 8 per 100,000 based on the latest, 2014 figures, compared with around 6 in 100,000 in 2010) are being diagnosed with so-called distant cancer, or disease that’s spread from the prostate to other parts of the body like bone, lungs and brain.”