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By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When the American Cancer Society’s annual report comes out, this afternoon, there will be good news for cancer patients: survival rates are improving.

The number of new cancer cases has decreased slightly in men and remained about the same for women, but the number of deaths from cancer has decreased by 1.8% in men and 1.6% in women.

Dr. Michael Seiden, director of the Fox Chase Cancer Center, says that’s a step in the right direction, but the survival gap remains too large. “Disparity in cancer outcomes remains an important social policy and research issue in cancer.”

He says the improvement can be tied to a combination of factors. “We’re detecting more of these cancers either in an earlier stage or we’re detecting many of them at the same stage but just have a higher chance of keeping those people alive.”

Dr. Seiden says the decrease in smoking has led to a lower rate of lung cancer. The incidence of colon, prostate and breast cancer has also fallen but liver, skin, head and neck cancer is on the rise.

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