Kentucky continues to lead nation in cancer death rate

Though cancer deaths rates are falling nationwide, Kentucky continues to rank worst in the country for its number of cancer deaths, The Courier-Journal‘s Laura Ungar has determined. (C-J graphic shows rates for the nation, Kentucky and Indiana, the southern part of which the Louisville newspaper serves.)

Ungar’s analysis stems from Thursday’s release of the Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, which concluded cancer death rates declined about 1.6 percent each year between 2003 and 2007 nationwide. Kentucky’s death rate declined an average of 0.7 percent each of those years.
The state had a cancer death rate of 213.7 per 100,000 residents in 2007, which translates to about 9,700 Kentuckians dying each year from cancer. In 2007, Kentucky had a lung cancer death rate 50 percent higher than the national average, ranking it highest in the nation. It also ranked eighth highest in brain and other nervous-system cancers and higher than average for colorectal, prostate and breast cancer death rates.
Lung cancer is the most deadly cancer in the country, though researchers found, for the first time, a decrease in the number of women who die from lung cancer nationwide. The decline comes “more than a decade after deaths began dropping in men,” Ungar reports.
Doctors are hoping to make more strides in battling the disease in the years to come. Thomas Tucker, director of the Kentucky Cancer Registry, told Ungar that smoking bans, higher cigarette taxes and anti-smoking messages should help drive down lung cancer rates. There has also been progress in the percentage of Kentuckians who are getting colonoscopies, a screening for colon cancer. Though more Kentuckians died of colorectal cancer than any other state in 2007, the rate has declined since. (Read more)
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