Report: Death rates in some cancers going down

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DUARTE, Calif. (CBS) More than 600,000 cancer deaths are expected in the U.S. this year alone, but despite that number there is hope. A new report reveals that death rates in some cancers are going down.

Fred Powers first battled melanoma 17 years ago. Then, in 2013 he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Reporter Nichelle Medina: Did you think this was a death sentence?
Fred Powers: Absolutely at the time, because there was no treatments at that point.

The 73-year-old is now in remission thanks to a breakthrough in immunotherapy treatment. "The tumors in my liver started to reduce. My spleen started to look better," Powers said.

New research highlights treatment advances for cancers such as melanoma and lung cancer that are driving down the cancer death rate. An American Cancer Society report shows a 29% drop since 1991. The death rate fell more than 2% from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop ever reported.

"The therapies for those metastatic diseases have become so much better than they were 25 to 30 years ago," said Dr. Kim Margolin, and oncologist with City of Hope cancer center.

Long-term declines for lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancer are behind the overall drop in cancer deaths. But while progress against lung cancer has been increasing in recent years, progress is slowing against the other three cancers.

Dr. Margolin says new therapies for melanoma are extending patients lives but there's more work to be done. "Those drugs are fantastic and they're good for right now. We need better and safer drugs," she said.

Powers gets skin checks every month. He's had five surgeries and receives monthly immunotherapy treatments. "Everything could change at every moment and that's why I have continuous gratitude every day," he said.

After everything he's been through, he's determined to live life to the fullest.