Close to 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year and about 600,000 will die from the disease, according to American Cancer Society data. That’s why it is way too early to uncork the champagne over the relatively good news unveiled in the annual report of the American Cancer Society’s mortality statistics published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Total number of cancer deaths averted from 1991 to 2014 in men and from 1992 to 2014 in women, United States.

Source: Siegel R, CA Cancer J Clin, Jan. 5, 2017

But the glass-half-full perspective is that the cancer death rate peaked in 1991 in the United States at 215 per 100,000 and has been dropping since as smoking rates have decreased and prevention and treatment have improved. The cancer society calculates that 2 million American deaths have been avoided because of the drop in the cancer rate. The decline is bigger for men (31% since 1990), than women (21% since 1991). Still, men are 20% more likely to develop cancer and 40% more likely to die from it than women, the statistics show.

Smoking remains a major culprit. The cancer society says that roughly a third (190,500 out of 600,290) of the deaths from cancer that will occur this year can be attributed to smoking.