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Projecting the future: years of life lost to prostate cancer in 2050

Posted Jun 22 2010 12:00am

Making predictions about the future tends to be a risky business, but according to a new paper by scientists at the Centers of Disease Control, the annual number of years of life lost to prostate cancer will have more than doubled by 2050.

Li and Ekwueme set out to estimate and project the annual number of years of potential life lost (YPLL) among males who die of prostate cancer in the USA from 2004 through 2050 and to compare these projections by race/ethnicity and age, while taking account of expected demographic changes and population growth.

This is obviously a complex epidemiological and statistical exercise, involving many assumptions, so it would be unwise to take the detailed results presented by these authors too literally. On the other hand, they do offer a possible idea of the “order of magnitude” of the risk.

The results projected by Li and Ekwueme are as follows:

  • The YPLL caused by prostate cancer deaths was projected to increase from 291,853 in 2004 to 951,753 in 2050 an overall increase of 226.1 percent.
  • The fastest growth in YPLL caused by prostate cancer was projected to occur among Hispanic males (977.1 percent from 2004 to 2050), followed by non-Hispanic blacks (543.1 percent), and non-Hispanic others (269.7 percent).
  • Men ≥ 75 years of age are projected to account for 62.0 percent of YPLL from prostate cancer in 2050 compared with 50.8 percent in 2004.
  • Most of the projected increase in YPLL caused by prostate cancer deaths by 2050 (63.4 percent) is expected as a consequence of overall population growth.

The bottom line to this study would seem to be that we will need to dramatically cut the annual prostate cancer-specific mortality rate in the USA if we are to have a hope of simply maintaining the annual YPLL caused by prostate cancer at its current level over the next 40 years. On the other hand, these data also suggest that the relative risk of death from prostate cancer at < 75 years of age will have declined significantly by 2050 compared to 2004.

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