HealthDay News — Cancer is expected to surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States as baby boomers age, despite significant progress in treating the disease, according to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

In 2013, more than 1.6 million Americans are projected to receive a cancer diagnosis, and more than 580,350 are predicted to die of the disease, according to it’s third annual Cancer Progress Report.

More than half of cancers are related to preventable causes, including tobacco use, obesity and overweight, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition.

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“Modifying personal behaviors to adopt a healthier lifestyle that eliminates or reduces these risks, where possible, could therefore, have a remarkable impact on our nation’s burden of cancer,” the report stated. “However, a great deal more research and resources are needed to understand how to best help individuals to change their lifestyle.”

Currently, cancer is the second most common disease-related killer behind heart disease, accounting for one in every four disease-related deaths in the United States, and is also the most costly to treat.

In the report, Charles L. Sawyers, MD, from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, and colleagues discuss progress that has been made in cancer research and the status of cancer in 2013.

From 1990 to 2012, 1,024,400 cancer-patient lives were saved. The number of cancer survivors has also increased from three million to 13.7 million from 1971 to 2012 — up from one in 60 to one in 23.

From Sept. 1, 2012, to July 31, 2013, the FDA approved 11 new drugs, three new uses for previously approved drugs and three new imaging technologies.

Despite this progress, automatic federal spending cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011, also known as sequestration, have hit medical research hard. Sequestration has reduced the National Institute of Health’s budget by $1.6 billion and the National Institute of Cancer budget by $293 million.

AACR is urging Congress and federal policymakers to make funding for biomedical cancer research a priority.

“We continue to make research count for patients by saving and enhancing the quality of many lives,” Margaret Foti, PhD, MD, and CEO of the AACR, said in a statement. “Investing more in cancer research now is an investment in America.”

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