Delaware makes headway in driving down state’s cancer death rates


Cancer screening and early detection efforts continue to drive down Delaware’s cancer death rates, according to state public health officials.

Officials are pointing to dramatic improvements in the all-site mortality rate among non-Hispanic African-American men, which decreased by 30 percent between the five-year periods of 2001-2005 and 2011-2015, according to the latest cancer data.

The Division of Public Health (DPH) presented the annual report to the Delaware Cancer Consortium (DCC) today, following its meeting in Dover.

The report Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Delaware, 2011-2015 provides data for all cancer sites combined (all-site cancer) as well as eight site-specific cancer types – breast, colorectal, liver, lung, pancreatic, prostate, stomach and urinary bladder – for the five-year period. In addition, the report includes information about risk factors, screening, state of diagnosis, and data trends. Today, DPH also issued a secondary analysis report of all-site cancer incidence rates by census tract.

Delaware ranks 18th among states for highest all-site cancer mortality in the 2011-2015 time period, which is two slots lower compared to last year’s report, in which the state ranked 16th-highest during the2010-2014time period.

Delaware’s all-site cancer mortality rate decreased 14 percent from 2001-2005 to 2011-2015, which is the same percentage decline seen nationally.

Despite, continuing decreases, the state’s mortality rate (175.1 deaths per 100,000 people) was still 7 percent higher than the U.S. rate of 163.5 for 2011-2015.

From 2001-2005 to 2011-2015, in addition to the 30 percent decrease seen among African-American men, there was a 19 percent decrease among Caucasian men, and 7 percent decrease among Hispanic men. Among women, there was a 14 percent decrease for AfricanAmericans, 13 percent for Caucasian women, and 4 percent decrease for Hispanic women.

Regarding incidence, or diagnosis of new cancer cases, Delaware’s all-site cancer incidence rate decreased 3 percent from 2001-2005 (504.2 per 100,000) to 2011-2015 (495.3 per 100,000). Still, the state’s all-site cancer incidence rate in 2011-2015 was 13 percent higher than the comparable U.S. rate (439.2 per 100,000).

While Delaware is ranked second among states for all-site cancer incidence, this may be due, in part, to the state’s continued increases in early detection and screening.

Lung cancer, the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the nation and in Delaware, continues to be of concern, as it accounted for 19 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer cases and 29 percent of all cancer deaths in Delaware from 2011-2015. Most lung cancer cases are diagnosed in the distant stage, when the cancer has spread to distant tissues, organs or lymph nodes and is more difficult to successfully treat.

In April, an education campaign was launched to encourage current and former smokers in high-risk groups to have a low-dose computer tomography (CT) scan.

Another area of concern for public health officials is the increase in liver cancer incidence and mortality. While liver cancer accounted for just 2 percent (506) of all newly diagnosed cancer cases from 2011-2015, those cases represented a 75 percent increase compared to the 2001-2005 time period.

Additionally when comparing the two time periods, there was a 44 percent increase in deaths from liver cancer. Liver cancer incidence and mortality rates are significantly higher for African Americans than for Caucasians.

The increases are largely attributed to the hepatitis C virus, particularly in the baby boomer population, but are also highly attributable to three major lifestyle factors including alcohol use/abuse, smoking and obesity. While there is no vaccine for the hepatitis C virus, screening, early identification and treatment are effective.

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