Incidence of lung cancer cases in Iowa higher than national average

DES MOINES — A new report from the American Lung Association shows some improvement in the number of high-risk Iowans who are being screened for lung cancer, but the rate of new lung cancer cases in Iowa is higher than the national average.

Kristina Hamilton is advocacy director for the American Lung Association of Iowa.  “Iowa still has one of the highest rates of radon in the country,” Hamilton says. “Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.”

Iowa ranks 37th among the states in the number of new cancer cases annually. The five-year survival rate for Iowans with lung cancer is nearly two percent lower than the national average.  Just over seven percent of Iowans who are at higher risk for lung cancer are being screened.   “Which is significantly higher than the national average of only 4.5%,” Hamilton says. 

In addition to smoking, having tuberculosis or being exposed to radiation or to chemicals like radon and asbestos raise the risk of developing lung cancer. Exposure to second hand smoke is another risk factor. A low dose C-T scan produces a detailed picture of lungs and can detect the cancer is its early stages.  “Early detection really does save lives,” Hamilton says, “so we want to emphasize awareness about the availability of lung cancer screening and encourage those who are qualify and are high risk to be screened.”

The American Lung Association is urging congress to pass the Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act. If a doctor recommends a lung cancer screening, the bill would prohibit Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance companies from requiring prior authorization for it. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among men and women in the U-S — but is by far the leading cause of cancer deaths in America.