Despite improvements, Delaware’s cancer rate remains high


Early detection and screening possible factors in high rates

According to the latest cancer data from the Division of Public Health (DPH), Delaware’s mortality rate for all cancer sites combined improved in most categories during the last decade.

Still, the state remains 15th-highest in the U.S. for the timeframe of 2013-2017,   unchanged from 2012-2016. Delaware also remains second-highest nationally for all-site cancer incidence during the same period, which may be partly due to the state’s continued increases in early detection and screening.

DPH presented its data report, Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Delaware, 2013-2017, to the Delaware Cancer Consortium (DCC) on Monday.

The annual report seeks to compare Delaware’s cancer incidence and mortality trends for 2013-2017 to those of the U.S. over the same period. DPH also summarizes how Delaware and U.S. cancer rates have changed from the five-year periods of 2003-2007 to 2013-2017.

DPH also issued a new compendium report, Census Tract-Level Cancer Incidence in Delaware, 2013-2017, which replaces previous secondary analysis reports. This report presents modified calculations and detailed maps with all-site cancer incidence rates by census tract.

From 2003-2007 to 2013-2017 in Delaware, all-site cancer mortality rates decreased 26% among non-Hispanic African American males and 15% among non-Hispanic Caucasian males, yet increased 18% among Hispanic males. Among Delaware females during the same period, all-site cancer mortality rates decreased 12% among non-Hispanic African Americans, 15% among non-Hispanic Caucasians, and 12% among Hispanics. DPH attributes these decreases to screening and early detection.

“After decades of dedicated early detection and screening efforts by a wide array of partners, it’s reassuring to see improvement in certain areas,”  Gov.  John Carney said. “I commend the Delaware Cancer Consortium and the Division of Public Health for expertly coordinating our state’s cancer prevention advocacy and education. I also thank those Delawareans who get their recommended cancer screenings, and encourage everyone to do the same.”

For 2013-2017, the state’s all-site cancer mortality rate (171.0 deaths per 100,000 people) was higher than the U.S. rate (158.3 deaths per 100,000). Also, for 2013-2017:

Delaware males (204.1 per 100,000) ranked 17th for all-site cancer mortality (18th in 2012-2016) and had higher rates compared to U.S. males (189.5 per 100,000).

Delaware females (146.3.1 per 100,000) had a higher all-site cancer mortality rate compared to U.S. females (135.7 per 100,000) and ranked 17th for all-site cancer mortality, an improvement from 14th in 2012-2016.

“The data show us clearly that early screening and prevention are critical for bringing down cancer mortality rates. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to delay cancer screenings and other preventive chronic disease care, and economically disadvantaged communities are typically impacted the most,” said Molly Magarik, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services. “Free cancer screenings are available to eligible Delawareans and we know they can lead to earlier diagnosis and to saving lives.”

In 2013-2017, there were nearly 29,000 new cancer cases diagnosed in Delaware, a slight increase from the 28,581 cases in 2012-2016 . Of those cases, 51% of those diagnosed were male, and 78% were non-Hispanic Caucasians. Delaware saw statistically higher rates (484.3 per 100,000) for all-site cancer incidence than the U.S. (435.0 per 100,000). Also, for 2013-2017:

Delaware males (531.5 per 100,000) had a higher all-site cancer incidence rate compared to U.S. males (472.9 per 100,000), ranking fourth nationally, an improvement from third in 2012-2016.

Delaware females (450.8 per 100,000) had a higher rate of all-site cancer incidence in 2013-2017 compared to U.S. females (410.5 per 100,000); their ranking improved to ninth from fifth in 2012-2016.

Noticeable improvements were found among many racial and ethnic groups, likely due to Delaware’s health equity initiatives. While there was no significant statistical difference in all-site cancer incidence rates between non-Hispanic Caucasians (496.9 per 100,00) and non-Hispanic African Americans (485.5 per 100,000) in the 2013-2017 period, Hispanics (389.1 per 100,000) had a lower all-site cancer incidence rate compared to both non-Hispanic Caucasians and non-Hispanic African Americans.

In Delaware, from 2003-2007 to 2013-2017, all-site cancer incidence rates decreased 12% among non-Hispanic Caucasian males, 22% among non-Hispanic African-American males, and 12% in Hispanic males. For females during the same 10-year period, the cancer incidence rate decreased 9% among Hispanic females, but increased 3% among non-Hispanic Caucasians and less than 1% among non-Hispanic African Americans.

“In order to address the disparities that persist in cancer incidence and mortality, we must address the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age and the systems put in place to deal with illness,” said Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “These social determinants of health include housing and neighborhood conditions, educational and economic factors, transportation systems, social connections, and other social factors. We must look at the racial disparities across the cancer continuum from prevention to end-of-life care that result from differences in the social determinants of health as no longer endurable.”

To learn how to prevent, detect, and treat chronic diseases and obtain assistance with a cancer screening, visit the Healthy Delaware website at


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