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Using Science to Reduce the Burden of Cancer

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New and better ways of fighting cancer, including screening tests and treatments, have been found over the past 20 years. But cancer is still the second leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than half a million Americans every year.1

Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer2

Photo: A man and woman

Every year since 1998, CDC, the American Cancer Society, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, and the National Cancer Institute have published this report. It provides an update of cancer incidence (new cases) and death rates and trends in these rates in the United States, as well as an in-depth analysis of a selected topic.

The latest report, published in January 2013, shows that death rates from all cancers combined for men, women, and children continued to fall in the United States between 2000 and 2009.

The special feature describes the burden and trends in human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers and HPV vaccination among adolescent girls. The report shows that from 2000 through 2009, incidence rates for HPV-associated—

  • Oropharyngeal (back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils) cancer increased among white men and women.
  • Anal cancer increased among white and black men and women.
  • Vulvar cancer increased among white and black women.
  • Cervical cancer declined among all women except American Indian/Alaska Natives, which stayed the same.

Vital Signs: Racial Disparities in Breast Cancer Severity3

In the United States, black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than women of any other racial or ethnic group, even though they get breast cancer less often than women of other racial and ethnic groups. Compared to white women, black women have 9 more deaths per 100 breast cancers found, and have higher numbers of advanced-stage breast cancer.

Better treatment and finding breast cancer early are likely responsible for half of the recent drop in breast cancer deaths. But black women do not get the same quality treatment for breast cancer as white women.

Research Nominated for the Charles C. Shepard Science Award

The Charles C. Shepard Science Award is presented to the best manuscript on original research published by a CDC or ATSDR scientist in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control submitted the following paper for consideration.

The Lack of Paid Sick Leave as a Barrier to Cancer Screening and Medical Care-Seeking4

Photo: Healthcare professionals

Paid sick leave is time workers are allowed to spend away from their job to attend to their own or a family member’s medical needs without losing their job or any pay. Workers who do not have paid sick leave are less likely to get screened for cancer.

More than 48 million workers (38% of the working population in the United States) lack paid sick leave. Workers in service or production jobs, workers in smaller companies, and workers with fewer years on the job were less likely to report having sick leave, while managers and professional workers were more likely to have paid sick leave.

Colorectal cancer screening. Workers with paid sick leave were more likely to have been screened for colorectal cancer with a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy (52.5%) than those without paid sick leave (47.1%). But there was no significant difference in the use of a fecal occult blood test between workers who had paid sick leave and workers without paid sick leave.

Breast cancer screening. Working women 40 years old or older who had paid sick leave were more likely to have had a mammogram in the last two years (83.3%) than those without paid sick leave (77%).

Cervical cancer screening. The study showeda small difference in the percentage of working women who had been screened for cervical cancer with a Pap test: 91.9% of those with paid sick leave had a Pap test in the past three years, compared to 89% of women without paid sick leave.

Seeking medical care. Workers with paid sick leave were more likely to have seen a doctor in an office or clinic for any reason in the last year (69.8%) than workers without paid sick leave (59.2%).

A person’s job has a major influence on his or her health. In the United States, the type of job a person has largely determines his or her health care benefits. This affects women more than men, since women are more likely to have part-time and low-paying jobs that don’t offer health care benefits. Lack of paid sick leave can prevent people from getting the health care services they need.

More Information


  1. Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2009. [PDF-2.6MB] National vital statistics reports; vol 61 no 7. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.
  2. Jemal A, Simard EP, Dorell C, Noone AM, Markowitz LE, Kohler B, Eheman C, Saraiya M, Bandi P, Saslow D, Cronin KA, Watson M, Schiffman M, Henley SJ, Schymura MJ, Anderson RN, Yankey D, and Edwards BK. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2009, featuring the burden and trends in HPV-associated cancers and HPV vaccination coverage levels. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2013;105(3):175–201.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vital signs: racial disparities in breast cancer severity—United States, 2005–2009. MMWR 2012;61(45);922–926.
  4. Peipins LA, Soman A, Berkowitz Z, White MC. The lack of paid sick leave as a barrier to cancer screening and medical care-seeking: results from the National Health Interview Survey. BMC Public Health 2012;12(1):520.
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