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February 9, 1994

How Do We Interpret the 'Bad News' About Cancer?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics, University of Toronto, Ontario.

JAMA. 1994;271(6):468. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03510300074042

In this issue of The Journal, Davis et al1 report on their analyses of US cancer data for 1973 through 1987 and conclude that increases in cancer have occurred that are not solely linked to aging of the population and smoking patterns. When interpreting the findings from their analyses we should bear in mind the following:

First, if the major cause of death declines (cardiovascular disease, the decline of which is one of the triumphs of this century), then other causes of death will increase proportionally. It is not clear that restricting attention to one raceage group (whites, aged 65 to 74 years, as in their Fig 1) will necessarily completely control for this phenomenon, especially the effect of competing causes of death.

See also p 431.

Second, categorizing smoking-related cancers as cancers of the mouth, larynx, lung, pharynx, and esophagus ignores those cancers of the bladder, kidney, pancreas,

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