Cancer death rates around the country have fallen by a quarter since 1991 according to a report released on Jan. 5 by the American Cancer Society. The number of deaths caused by cancer has been falling by about 1.5 percent each year for both men and women over the last 25 years, and the health organization says that this is largely due to the development of more effective cancer screening methods and a sharp decline in the number of New Yorkers and other Americans who smoke.

Detecting cancer in its early stages is extremely important. Colonoscopies are becoming more common in the United States, and the ACS report credits this procedure with a steep decrease in colorectal cancer deaths since 1991. Death rates are also declining because less-effective cancer screening methods are being abandoned. The prostate-specific antigen blood test is no longer recommended in prostate cancer screenings due to its unreliability. PSA blood tests often fail to detect prostate cancer in patients who suffer from the disease and diagnose it in men who are cancer free.

The report also revealed worrisome cancer trends in certain racial and ethnic and demographic groups. The cancer death rate is about 15 percent higher among African-Americans than it is among Caucasians, and cancer is the second leading cause of death for children 14 years of age or younger. The ACS predicts that more than 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in 2017, and the organization expects the disease to claim about 600,000 lives.

A missed medical diagnosis can be catastrophic for patients, and this is particularly true when progressive and deadly conditions are involved. Those who have suffered needlessly due to medical errors may pursue civil remedies, and personal injury attorneys who are experienced with malpractice cases could initiate litigation against negligent physicians or hospitals on their behalf.