The U.S. cancer death rate continues its steady decline, dropping 23 percent since 1991. Here in New Jersey, there is good news and bad news about cancer.

The American Cancer Society says 1.7 million cancer deaths have been averted through the year 2012.

"It is a tremendous achievement," said Dr. Arnold Baskies, the society's national board science officer.

The findings are included in the American Cancer Society's latest annual report on cancer incidence, mortality and survival.

Speaking for the Cancer Society, Baskies said the numbers speak to the partnership that the American Cancer Society has with several organizations, including the federal government and their 2 million volunteers throughout the country who have been working very hard to see that this kind of achievement has been made.

"The number that your audience should really focus on is that there are 1,700,000 more people walking the face of the earth in the United States today, that wouldn't be here without the efforts that we have been able to put forth," the doctor said.

Baskies believes it's an unbelievable accomplishment when you consider how complicated the treatment and detection of cancer can be.

Here in New Jersey, Baskies says more people are getting cancer, but the survival rate is better than the national average.

"In New Jersey, there are about 50,000 cases of all kinds of cancers annually, and about 16,000 of our fellow citizens succumb to the disease," he said. "The cancer incidence in New Jersey is higher than the national average. That's a fact. And it has been that way for at least 10 years."

Baskies says the whole northeastern part of the United States is high, for several reasons. Inside those numbers, prostate cancer is number one in New Jersey with about 8,000 cases annually, followed by breast cancer at 7,000 cases and lung cancer with 6,000 annual cases. The highest cancer rate in the state is in Cape May County. The lowest rate is in Hudson County.

Looking at the numbers, Baskies made a plea for increased cessation of tobacco use.

"The mortality rate is driven mainly by the number of lung cancers that we have. In fact, if you look at the national statistics, including New Jersey, the most impressive numbers in terms of what drives the deaths from cancer is smoking," Baskies said. "If we could stop the scourge of tobacco in the United States, we would be making a tremendous achievement."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.