Cancer is among the leading killers in America, although the figures about fatalities in comparison with other diseases have been somewhat changed because of COVID-19 deaths. Nevertheless, according to the CDC, over 1.7 million people were diagnosed with cancer in 2018, and just short of 600,000 died.
While annual cancer rates per 100,000 have dropped slightly from 1999, the total number of people diagnosed with cancer has risen. Some behaviors increase the risks of certain cancers. These include tobacco use, alcohol, physical activity, obesity and HPV.
Some cancers are much more likely to be deadly than others. Among the deadliest are pancreatic, brain, and liver. Fatality rates are much better among those who have prostate and thyroid.
To identify the state with the highest cancer rate, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the U.S. Cancer Statistics for 2018 (the latest year for which incidence data is available) published by the CDC. (Nevada data was unavailable, so the state has been excluded from this list.) Adult smoking and obesity rates are from the 2021 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program, produced by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, and are for 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Why do some rates vary significantly from state to state? Utah’s lowest rate of lung cancer and adult smoking, for instance, is likely linked in part to the high number of Mormons in the state who eschew alcohol and tobacco. While Hawaii has the second-lowest number of cancer-related deaths in the country overall and ranks low for adult obesity and lung cancer, it leads the nation in breast cancer, possibly due to statistically higher breast cancer diagnoses among the state’s Native Hawaiian and Japanese-American populations.
Obesity has also been linked to greater risk of certain cancers — 13 different ones, according to the CDC. Mississippi, for example, has the highest rate of adult obesity in the nation and the second-highest rate of cancer-related deaths. (It also ranks high for lung and prostate cancer, not associated with obesity). Compare that to Colorado, which has the lowest obesity rate in the country and the third-lowest rate of cancer-related deaths.
The state where people are most likely to get cancer is Kentucky. Here are the details:
> New cancer cases per 100,000: 503.4 (Total: 27,778)
> Cancer deaths: 10,135 or 181.8 per 100,000 — the highest
> Lung cancer, new cases: 4,803 or 82.8 per 100,000 — the highest
> Prostate cancer, new cases: 3,036 or 109.1 per 100,000 — 20th lowest
> Female breast cancer, new cases: 3,660 or 127.9 per 100,000 — 24th lowest
> Adult smoking rate: 24.1% — 2nd highest
> Adult obesity rate: 34.6% — 6th highest