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Overall Cancer Deaths Down 20%, Report Finds

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The number of Americans dying from cancer is dropping, according to a new annual report from the American Cancer Society.

The organization finds that overall cancer deaths in the U.S. declined 20 percent in 2009 from its peak in 1991.

"Much of that decline has come from the most common cancers.  So cancers of the lung, cancer of the breast, prostate, there have been significant decreases in deaths from those diseases," Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, explains.

The drop in lung cancers, Lichtenfeld says, can be mostly attributed to people using less tobacco.

"Clearly because people are not smoking and their not using tobacco any where near as much as they did, both men and women have had a significant decrease in lung cancer deaths, for example," he says.

But despite the good news, some cancer rates are still on the rise.

"We have seen an increase in pancreatic cancer over the past number of years consistently.  We're not quite sure why that is.  Perhaps that is because pancreatic cancer appears to be related to obesity," Lichtenfeld says, adding that increases have also been seen in liver cancer and melanoma in men.

While approximately 1.2 million deaths from cancer have been averted since 1991 thanks to early detection and prevention, and better treatments, Lichtenfeld says more needs to be done.

"We have so much to do.  The unfortunate reality is that our successes reducing deaths from cancer are not uniform across the country," he says.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio