A Closer Look: Why Some States Have Higher Cancer Rates Than Others

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Despite progress in managing risks, early detection, and treatment, cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the United States. More than 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year, and more than half a million die from the disease. The number of new cancer cases is expected to climb to nearly 2 million a year by 2020. At this rate, cancer will be the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 10 states with the fewest cancer diagnoses per 100,000 people are New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, California, Wyoming, Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska. The 10 states with the most new cancer cases for every 100,000 people are Kentucky, Delaware, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, New Jersey, Iowa, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the age-adjusted cancer incidence rate in every state from data compiled by the CDC. Here’s a closer look at what these states have in common and the factors that might contribute to the ranking of cancer incidence of a particular state.

Click here to see the states with the highest cancer rates.

The 10 states with the fewest new cancer diagnoses per 100,000 people are all in the West. The 10 states with the most new cancer diagnoses per 100,000 are mostly in the Northeast and New England.

Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist and strategic director of surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society, offered an explanation. “Western states generally have the lowest cancer incidence rates because of healthier lifestyles like less smoking (except Nevada) and obesity,’’ she said.

Regarding the higher rates of cancer diagnoses in the Northeast, where states such as New Jersey are dealing with a legacy of toxic waste, Siegel said it was “extremely challenging to measure the influence of environmental exposures, such as toxic waste, on the cancer burden, but they are thought to account for a relatively small proportion overall.’’ She added that less industry in the West compared with the Northeast may contribute to the fact that there are lower rates of cancer diagnoses, though she was not aware of any data to support this.