Cancer death rates have declined in the United States in recent years, but the declines are greater in urban than in rural areas, according to a study published in Cancer Medicine.

For this study, researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics and included cancer patients aged 25 years or older.

From 1999 to 2020, there were 12,580,140 cancer deaths. The age-adjusted death rate was 282.7 per 100,000 people in the rural population and 258.2 per 100,000 people in the urban population.

From 1999 to 2020, the cancer death rate in the urban population decreased from 200.00 to 140.4 per 100,000. In the rural population, the cancer death rate decreased from 204.5 to 163.8 per 100,000. In both areas, the change in death rates was greater for men than for women.

The average annual percentage change (AAPC) in age-standardized cancer death rates decreased by 1.96% for urban men and 1.43% for rural men. The decrease in AAPC was 1.56% for urban women and 0.93% for rural women.

As seen in the table below, the AAPC in cancer death rates declined for most cancer types. The exceptions were pancreatic and liver cancers in men and women, as well as  uterine cancer in women.

“[D]espite overall declines in cancer mortality, rural populations continue to have higher cancer mortality rates than urban areas, particularly minority populations residing in rural areas,” the researchers wrote. “Increasing death rates from liver and pancreas cancers (and uterine cancers in females) are also likely to be aggravated further by the COVID-19 pandemic and hospital closures in rural areas. Eliminating these disparities in cancer mortality will require equitable access to cancer preventive services, including vaccinations, early diagnosis, and timely guideline-adherent cancer care.”


Sokale IO, Raza SA, Thrift AP. Disparities in cancer mortality patterns: A comprehensive examination of U.S. rural and urban adults, 1999–2020. Cancer Med. Published online August 10, 2023. doi:10.1002/cam4.6451

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor