Colon cancer death and diagnosis rates falling in U.S.

colonoscopy, colon cancer, stock, 4x3
colonoscopy, colon cancer, stock, 4x3

(CBS/AP) Colon cancer death rates are falling across the country.

The second most lethal cancer - behind lung - appears to be on the decline in both death rates and number of diagnosed cases, according to a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

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The number of new colorectal cancer cases fell from 52.3 cases per 100,000 in 2003 to 45.4 cases per 100,000 people in 2007 - that means nearly 66,000 fewer people got colon cancer. The death rates fell from 19 deaths per 100,000 colorectal cancer patients in 2003 to 16.7 deaths per 100,000 patients in 2007 - about 32,000 fewer deaths.

Some states saw a larger decline than others. Death rates fell by as much as five and six percent in some New England states like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Mississippi was the only state that saw no real decline.

Experts think the decline is a result of increased colon cancer screening efforts.

"Colon cancer can be prevented, and we are making progress in getting more people screened," CDC Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a written statement. "Those who receive these life-saving screening tests can lead longer, healthier and more productive lives."

Mississippi has one of the nation's lowest screening rates, according to the study published in the July 5th issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Also, black people die of colon cancer at higher rates, and more than a third of Mississippi's residents are black.

How often should people get screened for colon cancer? Who's most at risk?

Click here to find out.