Special Report

States Where the Most People Are Getting Cancer

Despite a nationwide decline in smoking in recent years and an increasing emphasis on early detection, cancer in its various forms continues to be the second most common cause of death in the United States after heart disease. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of new cancer cases nationwide is 436 per 100,000 people, or about 1.7 million, while the cancer-related death rate in the U.S. is 149 people per 100,000. (The American Cancer Institute reports slightly higher numbers in both categories.)

To identify the states with the highest cancer rates, 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.

There can be many explanations for why the most common forms of cancer — breast, prostate, and lung — may be higher or lower in different states, including lifestyle behaviors, demographics, and access to preventative care. (These are 30 famous women who beat breast cancer.)

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.

Click here to see the states where the most people are getting cancer

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. (These are the most obese states in America.)