Special Report

The States With the Most People Dying From Cancer

5. Arizona
> Cancer mortality rate: 158.0 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 18.6% (8th highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 42.8 per 100,000 (7th lowest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 16.6% (14th lowest)

Like nearly all states with the lowest cancer-death rates, Arizona’s obesity rate of 23.9% was considerably lower than the national rate. The state had the eighth highest poverty rate, and the ninth highest percentage of adults without health insurance, however. Still, there were just 419 new cancer diagnoses per 100,000 Arizona residents in 2011, the lowest incidence in the nation. Death from all types of cancer was also far less common in Arizona than across the nation. However, mortality rates for other acute leukemias (a group of blood cancers) and cancer of the testicles were 1.36 and 1.25 times higher than the national rates, respectively. Meanwhile, cancer of the eye and the hypopharynx (an area at the back of the throat) were 0.5 and 0.42 times the national rate.

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4. New Mexico
> Cancer mortality rate: 157.4 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 21.9% (2nd highest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 36.7 per 100,000 (2nd lowest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 18.7% (19th highest)

New Mexico had the fourth lowest obesity rate in the country, but unlike many states with low cancer mortality rates, it otherwise fared poorly in health-related statistics. State residents had the lowest access to healthy food, the fifth highest rate of uninsured, and the second highest poverty rate. Oropharyngeal cancer (the area at the back of the mouth) had an age-adjusted mortality rate that was half the national rate. These cancers are generally related to tobacco and alcohol use. The binge drinking rate for adults in New Mexico was 13.7%, which was the 10th lowest rate in the nation.

3. Colorado
> Cancer mortality rate: 154.8 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (16th lowest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 38.3 per 100,000 (4th lowest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 16.9% (18th lowest)

Colorado had the highest percentage of adults reporting regular physical exercise, which likely helped state residents stay healthy. The state had the lowest obesity rate in the country at 20.4%. Given the risk of multiple cancers, including breast and colon, linked to obesity (roughly 5% of all cancer diagnoses), the low obesity rate in the state likely contributes significantly to its low cancer incidence and mortality rate. The incidence of all cancers in the state was 458.4 new diagnoses per 100,000 people, sixth lowest in the nation. The mortality rate from melanoma, a type of skin cancer, was 1.23 times the national rate. This could be partly due to increased sun exposure from the higher elevation and more time spent outdoors exercising. Cancers of the urinary system, multiple throat cancer types (laryngeal, hypopharyngeal, and tonsillar), and penile cancer had mortality rates below 0.7 times the national rate.

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2. Hawaii
> Cancer mortality rate: 145.6 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (5th lowest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 37.9 per 100,000 (3rd lowest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 15.3% (5th lowest)

Hawaii performed extremely well in most health-related factors. It had an above-average number of primary care physicians per capita, the second lowest obesity rate and uninsured rate, the third lowest percentage of people unable to afford to see a doctor, and the fifth lowest proportion of adults reporting a history of tobacco use. In Hawaii, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood, had an age-adjusted mortality rate only 0.34 times the national rate.

1. Utah
> Cancer mortality rate: 133.8 per 100,000
> Poverty rate: 12.7% (14th lowest)
> Lung cancer mortality rate: 23.2 per 100,000 (the lowest)
> Pct. of population with smoking history: 9.4% (the lowest)

Less than 10% of Utah adults reported a history of tobacco use, the lowest in the nation and the only percentage not to exceed 10%. With so few residents smoking, It is unsurprising that Utah had the lowest cancer mortality rate. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes about one-fifth of all deaths annually — not just from cancer — in the United States, and it is associated with a 23-fold higher risk of death from lung cancer in men and a 13-fold higher risk in women. In Utah, the risk of death from lung cancers was 0.45 times the national average, or roughly 29 fewer deaths per 100,000 people. Laryngeal cancer, also highly associated with smoking, had an age-adjusted mortality rate 0.34 times the national rate.