Cancer death rate continues steady drop, thanks to behavior and science

(CNN)How often do we get to report good news in the war on cancer? Not often, but today, there’s cause for celebration.

There has been a 23% drop in the cancer death rate since its peak in 1991, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society. That drop translates into more than 1.7 million cancer deaths averted through 2012, the latest year for which comprehensive data is available.

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“We need to also focus on the fact that there are some good screening tests that actually clearly save lives, that we are not using enough,” Brawley said. “I would point out that 55% to 60% of Americans over the age of 50 are up do date on colorectal cancer screening. We could save a lot of lives if we could just get to 80% by 2018. We could help to decrease the cancer death rate that way. I would point out that there is no debate that mammography saves lives — and if you look at women over the age of 45, about a third to 40% are not up to date on mammography. Many have never actually even had a mammogram, and we need to work on that.”