Report: Cancer cases are rising in Iowa while cancer deaths fall

IOWA CITY — A new report estimates 21,000 Iowans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, an increase from last year, while the projected number of Iowans who will die from cancer this year is falling.

Iowa Cancer Registry director Mary Charlton, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa, says they’re focusing on raising awareness about alcohol-related cancers in this year’s report.

“We’ve seen estimates that only about 40% of the general public know that alcohol is a carcinogen and a risk factor for cancer,” Charlton says. “In Iowa, we rank fourth among all the states in our rates of alcohol-related cancers and we also rank fourth in binge drinking.”

While drinking any alcohol can increase one’s cancer risk, she says heavy drinking and binge drinking pose the greatest risks.

For the second straight year, national rankings show Iowa has the second highest rate of new cancer cases in the county, behind only Kentucky. Smoking is a key risk factor and Kentucky’s smoking rate has fallen while Iowa’s rate is rising. Charlton says several other cancers are contributing to the rankings.

“Breast cancer is one of the biggest drivers of our higher rate. Iowa has the ninth highest incidence rate of breast cancer and it’s rising faster here than in most other states,” Charlton says. “Prostate cancer is another one. We have the fourth highest incidence rate among black males and the seventh highest rate among white males, and rates are rising faster here than most other states.”

The report finds Iowa’s cancer mortality rates are dropping slowly, while the state’s number of cancer cases is rising, thanks in large part to early detection screenings and treatments.

“We estimate there’ll be 21,000 new cancers diagnosed among Iowans this year, and that’s an increase of 200 from last year,” Charlton says, “and we estimate that there will be approximately 6,100 cancer deaths among Iowans this year, which is a decrease of 100 from last year.”

Since the registry’s annual report was first published in 1973, Charlton says the number of cancer survivors has grown, with nearly 169-thousand Iowans now having a history of cancer. The most prevalent types of cancer in Iowa are staying steady.

“No, it hasn’t changed from last year. It’s still breast, prostate, lung and colorectal making up roughly half of all cancer cases in Iowa,” Charlton says. “If you add melanoma, that’s the fifth highest, that’s well over half of our cases. In terms of cancer deaths, lung cancer continues to be the most common cause of cancer deaths, accounting for nearly one out of every four cancer deaths in Iowa.”

The annual report allows doctors and researchers to focus on how to prevent and treat cancer, she says, and it provides Iowans with the knowledge they need to get advance screening and improve survival rates across the board.

See the full report here: