The cancer mortality rate in America is dropping.


Dr. Joseph Merriman

Cancer deaths have declined 29% in the past three decades, including a 2.2% drop in 2017, the largest single-year decline since recordkeeping began in 1930, according to the recent American Cancer Society annual statistics report.

“I hope it gives great hope that what we’re doing is making progress and moving the needle,” said Dr. Joseph Merriman, a medical oncologist at Novant Health Cancer Specialists – Charlotte. “The progress we see in this report reflects the commitment from patients, physicians and policymakers throughout the country, in addition to the science behind it.”

Merriman said several factors contribute to the decline:

  • Patients and communities are better informed.
  • Physicians can provide improved diagnostics and treatments, specifically in the care of patients with lung cancer and melanoma.
  • Fewer people are smoking.
  • More people are seeking appropriate screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and low-dose computed tomography (CT) scans for lung cancer.
  • Advances have been made in targeted drugs and immunotherapy, which is the process of using a patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

“While we focus on and praise the research and therapies, we also have to credit those millions of selfless patients who have made this progress possible through participation in studies across the U.S.,” Merriman said.

Through clinical trials, doctors determine whether new treatments are safe and effective, and if they work better than current treatments. Clinical trials also help find new ways to prevent and detect cancer.

Talk with your doctor to determine if a clinical trial could be right for you. Call the Novant Health Oncology Research Institute in Charlotte (704-384-5369) or the Novant Health Clinical Research Institute in Winston-Salem (316-277-0910) to learn more about current trial participation opportunities.

Novant Health cancer patients and their caregivers will benefit from the new Edward I. and Agnes B. Weisiger Cancer Center, scheduled to open this fall.

“All these new treatments and innovations are only as good as they are accessible,” Merriman said. “Our focus is to bring the most innovative standard of care to the community locally. Charlotte is a robust community, so why not be able to offer the latest, whether it be optimizing the standard of care or a clinical trial or research for the community here?”