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In Focus: Reducing cancer deaths in Louisiana

Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the United States, with about one in four Americans at risk of dying from cancer.1,2 More than 1.6 million new cases of cancer and nearly 595,000 cancer deaths occur annually, with direct medical costs from cancer totaling over $87 billion nationally.3,4
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Racial and socioeconomic disparities persist in cancer incidence and mortality. For example, although other racial/ ethnic groups may have higher incidences of cancer, blacks have the highest mortality rates for each of the most common types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, lung, colon, and prostate.5 Blacks also have a death rate for all cancers combined that is 15 percent higher than whites.6 Individuals from lower education and income groups also have higher cancer incidence and mortality rates than their more a luent counterparts.7
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Louisiana has the fifth-highest all cancer mortality rate in the nation, with 218.2 per 100,000 Louisianans dying from the disease annually.8 The highest death rate in the state is associated with lung cancer, followed by cancers of the breast, prostate, colon and rectum, and pancreas.9 Mortality rates vary across Louisiana, with the highest rates in the central part of the state,10 as well as by race, ethnicity and gender.11 For example:
  • The cancer death rate among Hispanics is less than half the rate among blacks in Louisiana (93.6 deaths compared to 259.2 deaths per 100,000 population).
  • Cancer deaths are much more common for men in Louisiana than for women (270.8 deaths compared to 179.8 deaths per 100,000 population).

Lowering the Risk of Cancer Mortality

Approximately 30-50 percent of all cancer cases are preventable.12 Individuals can lower their risk of developing some cancers through lifestyle choices, such as avoiding tobacco, limiting alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight. Thirteen di erent types of cancer – making up 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. – are associated with overweight and obesity.13 Infections, environmental pollution, occupational hazards, and radiation exposure also increase the risk of cancer.
Access to health care is another important contributor to preventing cancer deaths. Removing financial, cultural, or physical barriers to regular cancer screenings – such as Pap smears, mammograms, and colonoscopies – will help in identifying cancers at their early stages, when treatment is most effective.
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Improving Cancer Prevention and Treatment in Louisiana

To help accelerate early diagnoses of cancer and address Louisiana’s high rate of cancer mortality, the Louisiana Legislature established the Louisiana Cancer Research Center (LCRC) in 2002. The LCRC works to promote education and advance research in the diagnosis, detection, and treatment of cancer by bringing together four large research partners (Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Tulane University Health Sciences Center, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Ochsner Health System) to collaborate on research activities and address health disparities.
In addition to research, LCRC actively works to prevent cancer through the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living program, which works to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke and implement tobacco cessation and control initiatives in the state.
LCRC is also focused on becoming the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated Cancer Center. NCI Cancer Centers are currently located in 35 states across the country, and provide cutting-edge cancer treatments to patients while advancing research. The nearest NCI Cancer Center to Louisiana is located in Houston, Texas – over 100 miles away from the Louisiana border, and 350 miles from New Orleans.

[1] CDC, Leading Causes of Death, 2016.
[2] American Cancer Society. Lifetime Risk of Developing or Dying from Cancer. March 2016.
[3] National Cancer Institute, March 2017.
[4] American Cancer Society. Economic Impact of Cancer. Updated April 2017.
[5] National Cancer Institute. Cancer Health Disparities, March 2008.
[6] Cancer Statistics, 2017. American Cancer Society.
[7] Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Cancer Mortality, Incidence, and Survival in the United States, 1950–2014: Over Six Decades of Changing Patterns and Widening Inequalities. Journal of Environmental and Public
Health, March 2017.
[8] America’s Health Rankings, 2017 Annual Report.
[9] U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2014 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute; 2017.
[10] Death Rates for Louisiana, All Cancer Sites, 2010-2014. State Cancer Profiles, National Cancer Institute.
[11] America’s Health Rankings, 2017 Annual Report.
[12] World Health Organization, 2017.
[13] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs, October 3, 2017.
[14] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, 2014.

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