Special Report

States Fighting Cancer Most Successfully Since 2000

With a combination of early detection, innovative treatments, and a deep reduction in smоking rates, cancer deaths in the U.S. have declined precipitously in the past 20 years. Between 2001 and 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, the mortality rate from various forms of the disease dropped 27%, from 196.5 to 144.1 deaths per 100,000 population. Unfortunately, even with this significant decline, cancer was the second most common cause of death in the U.S. in 2020, trailing only heart disease. 

Compared to where the country was not too long ago, however, the reduction in cancer deaths is remarkable. According to the American Cancer Society, mortality from cancer peaked in 1991, when 215 out of every 100,000 people died from cancer. The organization attributed the rise in cancer deaths from what it called an epidemic of smоking in the 20th century. As more people broke the cigаrette habit, cancer-related illnesses fell. (These are the states where the most people are still getting cancer.)

CDC statistics show that anti-smоking campaigns have worked. In 2005, 20.9% or nearly 21 out of every 100 adults age 18 or older smоked. By 2020, the percentage had shrunk to 12.5%, or 13 of every 100 adults. (Smоkers were defined as those who lit up 100 cigаrettes during their lives and who reported smоking every day or some days at the time they were surveyed.)  

Every state has seen a decline – though the change in cancer mortality rates varies by state, with some doing a better job statistically of fighting the deadly disease.  Here are the states with the highest smоking rates.

To find the states fighting cancers most successfully, 24/7 Tempo reviewed cancer death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. States were ranked by the percent change in the cancer death rate – the number of cancer deaths per 100,000 age-adjusted population – from 2000 to 2020. smоking rate changes also came from the CDC. Median household income figures are five-year estimates for 2020 from the Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Click here to see the states fighting cancer most successfully since 2000

New Jersey recorded the highest drop at -35%, followed by Massachusetts at -34.5%. What explains those states’ victories against cancer? Both states have high median household incomes, so perhaps higher incomes allow people better access to healthcare and therefore earlier intervention and treatments for cancer.

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