Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide. About 9.6 million people died from the disease last year, according to the World Health Organization — about one in every six deaths. In the United States, an estimated 610,000 people died from cancer in 2018, according to the American Cancer Society.
The rate of new cancer cases is expected to increase over the next few years, a trend that is mostly contributed to the fact that people live longer and the risk of developing the disease increases with age, according to Dr. Joseph Lynch, an oncologist from Geisinger, said. In other words, more people are now able to live longer with the illness. But more people also live longer with the illness.
24/7 Tempo reviewed how many people in every state live with cancer using data from the American Cancer Society. The organization identifies anyone who has had a history with the disease as a “survivor.” That includes anyone living with cancer, regardless of whether it has gone in remission.
While climbing cancer rates are discouraging, there is some good news. “Many types of cancer are increasingly becoming a chronic illness,” Lynch said. In other words, more people are now able to live longer with the illness. This is largely due to improved rates of early detection, especially when it comes to breast and colon cancer – two of the most common types of the condition – as well as increasingly effective treatment.
The median survival time — as in years people lived with cancer after being diagnosed — used to be three years, Lynch noted. “It’s now 10-12 years.”
The biggest milestone in cancer treatment, according to Lynch, is immunotherapies for solid tumors, the types that don’t contain cysts or liquid areas such as sarcomas or lymphomas. Quality of life for many patients with certain types of cancer has also improved due to various treatment options. For example, people living with multiple myeloma, a cancer that forms in the plasma cells, have a much better quality of life because they take their medication orally, Lynch explained. “Taking one pill a week instead of having to make time and change plans to go to the doctors’ office allows you to live your life as normally as possible,” he added. These are the states with the highest cancer rates.
To identify the number of cancer survivors in each state, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the most recent estimated number of cancer survivors as of Jan. 1, 2016 by state in the 2016-2017 “Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures,” published by the American Cancer Society. The estimated number of new cases and number of deaths in 2019, as well as incident and death rates for 2011-2015 and 2012-2016, respectively, is from the 2019 “Cancer Facts and Figures” also published by the American Cancer Society. Total population and data on adults with no health insurance is from the American Community Survey 2017 1-year estimates, and the annual unemployment rate for 2018 is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.