November 24, 2014

U-of-I report: Cancer death rates will fall slightly in 2011

Researchers at the University of Iowa say cancer death rates are dropping in the state, but cancer remains a leading cause of death for Iowans. Dr. Charles Lynch is an epidemiology professor at the U-of-I and he’s medical director of the State Health Registry of Iowa.

“We’re expecting about 6,300 Iowans to die with cancer as their cause of death this year, 3,100 in women and 3,200 in men,” Dr. Lynch says. “Lung cancer is going to be the most common cause of cancer death, accounting for about three out of every ten cancer deaths.”

He says those numbers are down about one-hundred deaths from the prediction a year ago, while the forecast number of new cancer cases is also down by about one-hundred patients.

“We’ll expect 16,500 new cancers diagnosed among Iowans this year, 8,000 in women, 8,500 in men,” Lynch says. “Breast cancer is going to be the most common type of cancer in women, prostate cancer in men. There are two other major cancers in Iowa, lung cancer and colorectal cancer. These four cancers account for about half of all the new cancers and half of the cancer deaths.”

He says if the current trend continues, the top killer of heart disease will be surpassed by cancer as the state’s number-one cause of death.

Launched in 1973, the State Health Registry has more than 36 years of history on which to draw conclusions. Lynch says he’s encouraged by the trends he’s seeing with colorectal cancer, which over the course of the registry has seen 71,000 Iowa cases and 29,000 deaths.

“Colorectal cancer incidence rates peaked in the 1980s,” Lynch says. “When we compare it to the last decade, these rates have declined 18% or more across the state for both sexes, for age groups over age 50, for whites and African-Americans and for the people living in our most densely-populated counties.”

He says people who have no family history of colorectal cancer should get a colon cancer check-up after they’ve had five decades worth of birthdays.

“Ninety-five percent of colorectal cancer (cases) in Iowans have been diagnosed at age 50 or older,” Lynch says. “For this reason, average-risk patients are recommended to begin screening at age 50, higher risk patients are encouraged to begin the screenings prior to age 50.”

He says with early detection, colorectal cancer has a five-year survival rate of 95%, while a late detection may drop that survival rate down to 50%.

The full registry report is available online in the “Publications” section at http://cph.uiowa.edu/shri. It includes county-by-county statistics and summaries of new research projects.