Special Report

The States With the Most People Dying From Cancer

5. Tennessee
> Cancer mortality rate: 201.9 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (12th highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 67.5 per 100,000 (2nd highest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 22.6% (6th highest)

Tennessee reported a high prevalence of various health risk factors. The high rate of current and former smokers, the poor access to healthcare, and the high obesity rates all likely contributed to the state’s high cancer mortality rate. Mortality from acute monocytic leukemia, a form of blood cancer, was 1.56 times more common in Tennessee than it was nationwide. This cancer is linked to smoking, chemical and radiation exposures, and prior cancer treatments.

4. West Virginia
> Cancer mortality rate: 203.6 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (10th highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 67.4 per 100,000 (3rd highest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 26.0% (the highest)

Like most states with high cancer mortality rates, West Virginia performed poorly in most health-related risk factors. It had the highest proportion of adults reporting a history of tobacco consumption, 26%, the third highest obesity rate, at 33.3% of adults, and the fourth highest proportion of residents who could not afford to visit a doctor, at 17.4%. Additionally, with the high employment in coal mining and other energy sector jobs, West Virginians have significant occupational exposure risk. There were more than 67 lung cancer-related deaths per 100,000 state residents, the largest contributor to the cancer mortality rate compared to other forms of cancer.

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3. Mississippi
> Cancer mortality rate: 205.5 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 66.5 per 100,000 (5th highest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 23.2% (4th highest)

More than 35% of adults in Mississippi were obese, and 24% of residents lived in poverty, each the highest rates in the country. Financial burdens made accessing health care far more difficult — nearly one in five residents said they could not see a doctor due to costs. There were also very few primary physicians in the state, with 26.5 doctors per 100,000 people, the lowest ratio nationwide. The chances of surviving cancer once diagnosed were also among the lowest in Mississippi, with 42 deaths occurring for every 100 diagnoses, the second-worst mortality-to-incidence ratio. Oral cancer mortality rate was more than three times higher than the national rate, and the mortality rate for bone cancer and some leukemias (blood cancers) were well more than twice the national average as well.

2. Louisiana
> Cancer mortality rate: 205.5 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 24.0% (the highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 63.2 per 100,000 (6th highest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 21.7% (10th highest)

Gulf coast neighbors, Louisiana and Mississippi shared the second highest cancer mortality rate in the countr. Louisiana ranks poorly in most health risk factors — it had the 10th highest rate of adults with a history of smoking and the second worst obesity rate. Residents in the state were much less likely to have access to nutritious food choices, with 9.7% of the population reporting such limited access, fourth worst in the country. Poverty is very high in the state, and residents were also among the most likely in the country to be unable to afford to go see a doctor. For every 100 people diagnosed with cancer in Louisiana, roughly 40 died, which was the eighth-worst mortality-to-incidence ratio in the country.

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1. Kentucky
> Cancer mortality rate: 211.7 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 18.8% (6th highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 76.1 per 100,000 (the highest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 25.6% (2nd highest)

Kentucky had the the highest cancer-related mortality rate in the country and the second highest overall incidence of cancer, with 537.9 new cases of cancer per 100,000 people each year, compared to the national incidence rate of 490.4. As in many other states where cancer deaths are relatively common, Kentucky residents reported relatively unhealthy habits. More than one-quarter of adults reported a history of tobacco consumption, the second-highest proportion. In addition, poor economic factors in the state, such as a poverty rate of nearly 19% — sixth highest — have likely made staying healthy a challenge for many residents. Nearly 17% of residents said they could not afford to see a doctor, the seventh highest such percentage. Potentially dangerous work environments were yet another risk factor for many Kentuckians. Workers in the state were more likely than most Americans to work in mining and other energy sector occupations, jobs that often involve exposure to higher levels of carcinogens and possible inhalants. The lung cancer mortality rate of 76.1 deaths per 100,000 people was the highest in the country, compared to the national average of 51.9.