A new report out Monday shows cancer death rates overall are inching down in the U.S., continuing a declining trend since the 1990s. Between 2000 and 2009, cancer death rates have decreased by 1.8 percent per year among men and by 1.4 percent per year among women. Despite the positive news, human papillomavirus remains a cause for concern. HPV infection rates are markedly up, researchers say, due to low vaccine rates among girls.

Percent of adolescent girls who received three doses of HPV vaccine

Percent of adolescent girls who received three doses of HPV vaccine

According to the report, authored by the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, fewer than half of girls ages 13 through 17 had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, and only 32 percent had received all three recommended doses.

The report also shows death rates have increased for skin, liver, pancreatic and uterine cancers. Researchers attribute these stubbornly high numbers to an unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle.

“The continuing drop in cancer mortality over the past two decades is reason to cheer,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. “The challenge we now face is how to continue those gains in the face of new obstacles, like obesity and HPV infections. We must face these hurdles head on, without distraction, and without delay, by expanding access to proven strategies to prevent and control cancer.”

The report appears in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and will be published in print issue 3, volume 105. Read a recent Q&A for more information on the report.