In the rush of scientific optimism that followed the polio vaccine and the first moon walk, Richard Nixon declared war on America's second biggest killer: cancer. Twenty-five years and $35 billion later, the news from the cancer front is good and bad.

The good news is that for the first time since 1900, the overall cancer death rates in the U.S. are coming down. According to a report published last week in the journal Cancer, the number of cancer deaths fell from a peak of 135 per 100,000 in 1990 to 130 last year--a 3.1% drop. Even more encouraging, that trend...

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