WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump suggested Thursday in a tweet that he and his administration were a factor in the U.S. cancer death rate hitting a record low in 2017, but the American Cancer Society (ACS) refuted that assertion.
Researchers from the ACS released a report Wednesday that showed the cancer death rate fell steadily from 1991 through 2017, and that 2017 was the largest-ever one-year decline in the U.S. cancer death rate.
“U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration,” Trump tweeted following the release of the report.
The report specifies that from 2016 to 2017, the death rate dropped a record 2.2 percent. Researches credited this to advances in lung cancer treatments that include better surgical abilities, better diagnostics and more precise use of radiation.
Trump took office in January 2017.
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Gary Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, pushed back against Trump’s insinuation, stating that “The mortality trends reflected in our current report, including the largest drop in overall cancer mortality ever recorded from 2016 to 2017, reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years.”
He continued that “Since taking office, the president has signed multiple spending bills that have included increases in funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute — though the impact of those increases are not reflected in the data contained in this report.”
“The administration has an opportunity to significantly impact future declines in both cancer incidence and mortality by increasing access to comprehensive health care, supporting robust and sustained increases in federal funding for cancer research and passing and implementing evidence-based tobacco control policies,” Reedy stated, according to CNN.
Trump has advocated and proposed cutting billions of dollars in funding to NIH in the past, a move that would have impacted the National Cancer Institute if Congress had approved it.
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However, Trump eventually signed a budget passed by Congress that instead gave NIH a $2.6 billion increase and ignored the proposed cuts by the administration.
Former vice president and 2020 Democratic contender Joe Biden hit back at Trump’s tweet Thursday night, saying that “We’re lucky that the cancer rate is down, but we’re luckier that Congress stopped you.”
Biden has made curing cancer a focus of his campaign. The former VP has suffered from cancer himself, and his eldest son, Beau Biden, died from brain cancer in 2015 at the age of 46.
Biden was tasked with leading former President Barack Obama’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to find a cure for cancer in the last year of the Obama administration.
“Cancer rates dropped before you took office. Hopefully they keep dropping because Congress rejected your cruel research budgets,” Breast cancer survivor and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., tweeted. “This is good news despite you – not because of you.”
Experts from the study also pointed to decades of declining smoking rates as a major cause of the reduced death rate.
Contributing: Mike Stobbe, Associated Press, Nicholas Wu, USA TODAY