Cancer death rates show wide geographic variation



Over 595,000 cancer deaths – an average of about 1,600 each day – are expected in the United States in 2016, but those deaths are not evenly distributed among the states, according to investigators from the American Cancer Society.

Estimates from the ACS show that, in 2016, Utah will have a cancer death rate of 99 per 100,000 population, the lowest in the country. Those same estimates predict that West Virginia will have a highest-in-the-country death rate of 258.2 per 100,000 – 2.6 times higher than Utah’s. Other states with high estimated death rates include Maine, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania, noted Rebecca L. Siegel and her associates at the ACS (CA Cancer J Clin. 2016 Jan;66[1]:7-30).

Besides Utah, the states with the lowest estimated cancer death rates in 2016 are Colorado, Texas, and Alaska, along with the District of Columbia. The national death rate for cancer has dropped 23% since 1991, the investigators said, but cancer is now the leading cause of death in 21 states. This good news/bad news situation comes about mainly as a result of “exceptionally large reductions in death from heart disease,” they added.

Ms. Siegel and her associates calculated the expected number of cancer deaths “based on the annual percent change in reported numbers of cancer deaths from 1998 through 2012 at the state and national levels as reported to the [National Center for Health Statistics].” Death rates were calculated here using estimated populations for 2015 from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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