Medical researchers at the University of Iowa are predicting a shift in the state’s leading cause of death. The new "Cancer in Iowa" report predicts 6,300 Iowans will die from cancer this year, while 16,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed.
Those numbers are very close to last year, according to the Iowa Cancer Registry’s medical director Dr. Charles Lynch, a U-of-I professor of epidemiology. Lynch says: "An important observation here is that heart disease, for many, many years, has been our number-one cause of death in Iowa but it’s been declining over the last few decades. We’re at the verge now of where cancer, likely by the end of this decade, will become the number-one cause of death in Iowa, surpassing heart disease."
"If you look at age-adjusted death rates for cancer, they have been declining," Lynch says, but cancer death rates are catching up to heart disease because the decline in cancer deaths hasn’t been as great as the decline in heart disease deaths. He says the number of Iowa smokers has been falling for several years, yet lung cancer remains Iowa’s leading cancer killer.
"The number-one cause of cancer death in the state continues to be lung cancer," Lynch says. "This accounts for about three out of every ten deaths here in Iowa and I think as most Iowans know, smoking prevention is the best way we know of to prevent the development of lung cancer." In Minnesota, cancer deaths have already surpassed heart disease deaths.
Lynch says it’s encouraging that most cancer numbers in Iowa continue to fall, thanks in part to improved treatments and more people getting early cancer screenings. "We have four major cancers that affect Iowans," Lynch says. "In addition to breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, these include lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Together, these four cancers account for over half of all the newly-diagnosed cancers and slightly more than half of the cancer deaths that we see in the state."
The annual report has been presenting Iowa cancer data since 1973 and aims to help advance efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. The report is based on data from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Cancer Registry includes county-by-county statistics. It’s online in the "publications" section at " www.public-health.uiowa.edu/shri /" or by calling the registry at 319-335-8609. Lynch says you can also find the report quickly by Googling the three words "Iowa," "cancer" and "data."