DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Harold Staten understands how cancer can affect a family.

“I’m about as [much] a family man as you could ever get,” he said.

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His father was one of 13 siblings, and nearly all died from some form of cancer. “Dad’s was prostate cancer,” he said. “You name it and someone in that bunch had it.”

Still, when Staten saw the x-ray showing a tumor on his own lung, he was stunned. “Why was I so stupid to keep smoking for all those years?” he remembers thinking.

After chemo, radiation, and surgery to remove his lung, Staten is now cancer-free, joining the growing number of cancer survivors.

“We know more and more people are surviving,” said Suzy Lockwood, with the American Cancer Society High Plains Division.

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The organization’s annual report released Tuesday revealed the largest ever single-year drop in the cancer death rate. “We this year saw a 2.2 percent decline versus that one percent give or take we’ve seen since the 1990’s,” Lockwood said.

The biggest decline has been in cases of lung cancer, like Staten’s. Prevention has played a big role, as the number of smokers has plummeted and smoke-free ordinances reduce second-hand exposure.

Cancer treatments have improved as well, increasing the odds for those diagnosed.

“I’m watching my grandkids grow up,” said Staten. “I’ve seen them in school plays, I’ve seen them in choirs, I’ve seen them in sports. And I could have missed all that. And I think about that every day.”

More than 600,000 Americans are expected to die from cancer this year, but with those numbers in steady decline, Staten hopes it’s a fate his children won’t have to face.

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“It’s scary,” he said. “I just pray to the Lord every day that this stops with me.”