University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

News Article

Cancer in Iowa Report Highlights Lung Cancer Awareness

The latest annual report on cancer in Iowa estimates 6,400 Iowans will die from cancer and 17,500 new cancers will be diagnosed this year, according to the "Cancer in Iowa: 2012" report released March 29 by the State Health Registry of Iowa, based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

"Cancer remains a leading cause of death in Iowa," says Charles Lynch, MD, PhD, UI professor of epidemiology and medical director of the registry. "The distribution of different types of cancer is comparable to what the State Health Registry has been reporting in recent years, without any major shifts."

The report, based on data from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Cancer Registry, is available online in the "publications" section at http://cph.uiowa.edu/shri or by calling the registry at 319-335-8609. The report includes county-by-county statistics, summaries of new research projects, and a section focused on lung cancer, one of the state's big four cancers.

"Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Iowa," Lynch continues. "One out of every four cancer deaths can be attributed to lung cancer, and each year more people die of lung cancer than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined."

George Weiner, MD, director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, said prolonged efforts to prevent, detect, and treat cancer will continue to result in steadily declining cancer death rates.

"We must continue to emphasize that lung cancer is largely a preventable disease," Weiner says. "Risk factor reduction -- such as smoking cessation, avoiding secondhand smoke, and mitigating homes for radon -- remains the primary means to reduce lung cancer incidence and mortality.

"Smoking is the leading modifiable risk factor for lung cancer in the Iowa population," Weiner states. "If we want to see tobacco-related diseases and deaths decrease in Iowa, we need to continue efforts to reduce tobacco use."

According to the report, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among individuals who have never smoked. Radon can enter homes through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations and collect indoors. Iowa has the highest average radon concentrations in the United States, and all 99 counties in the state fall into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "red zone" for radon levels, meaning Iowans have a high potential for elevated radon levels in their homes.

"We need Iowans to be proactive in addressing this risk factor for lung cancer by measuring radon in their homes and, if elevated, taking action to reduce the radon levels," Lynch concludes. "Tests are relatively easy to use and inexpensive. A simple test could quite literally save your life."

The State Health Registry of Iowa has been gathering cancer incidence and follow-up data for the state since 1973. To learn more about the registry visit http://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/shri.

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