Health & Family
The number of Virginians who die from cancer has decreased in recent years, but it is still higher than the national average. The state hopes to reduce that number still more by targeting behavioral risk factors.
Why is This Important?
Over one million people are diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States. Approximately one out of every two American men and one out of every three American women will have some type of cancer at some point during their lifetime. While the overall cancer death rate declined during the 1990s, cancer remains the second leading cause of death. Although the overall death rates have dropped for some types — leukemia and breast, cervical, colorectal, stomach, and uterine cancers — the death rates for lung cancer and skin cancer, the most common types of cancer in the country, have increased.
How is Virginia Doing?
Virginia's age-adjusted annual cancer death rate is 18th highest in the nation. In 2003, Virginia's rate was 197.6 deaths per 100,000 people, while the national rate was 190.1. The 2003 cancer death rates per 100,000 people in North Carolina, Tennessee and Maryland were 195.6, 212.9 and 194.9, respectively. Utah, with the lowest rate in the nation, had 144.9 deaths. However, the death rate has been falling in Virginia. The average annual rate fell from 202.9 during 1998-2002 to 195.7 during 1999-2003. Within the regions of Virginia, Central, Eastern and Hampton Roads all decreased their average annual cancer death rates, while the rates increased in Northern, Southwest, Valley and West Central. The most common form of cancer in Virginia is lung and bronchus, followed by colon and rectum cancer.
Virginia Cancer Deaths By Type
|Oral Cavity and Pharynx||11.2||10.9||9.5||9.7||9.1|
|Colon and Rectum||53.4||50.5||51.2||48.9||45.7|
|Liver and Intra
Hepatic Bile Duct
|Lung and Bronchus||63.6||62.8||62.6||59.2||58.5|
|Melanoma of the Skin||13.4||14.2||14.6||14.3||16.2|
|Kidney and Renal Pelvis||10.2||9.7||10.6||10.5||10.8|
|Brain and Other
What Influences the Cancer Rate?
Environmental carcinogens, tobacco, diet and obesity, sedentary lifestyle, occupational factors, family history, environmental pollution, ultraviolet radiation, and socioeconomic status have all been linked to cancer. Recently, viruses and other biologic agents, as well as alcohol consumption, particularly when interacting with tobacco, have also been linked to cancer.
What is the State's Role?
According to a Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention report, there are at least five behavioral risk factors that the state can influence: tobacco use, physical inactivity, overweight, diet and alcohol use. To reduce these risks, the state can engage in educational programs about the risks of cancer; implement structural interventions, such as regulations to reduce the use of tobacco; and facilitate local activates to promote a healthier environment and lifestyle.
Data Definitions and Sources
Regional Data: Virginia Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics
State Data: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Harvard Reports on Cancer Prevention
American Cancer Society
Ries, L.A.G., M.P. Eisner, C.L. Kosary, et al. (eds). SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1973-1998. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute, 2001.