Mind, Body & Spirit

Low Arizona cancer rates not the whole story

A report by the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control shows that Arizona’s cancer incidence rates are the lowest in the nation.

According to the United States Cancer Statistics Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report, which compares the rates of cancer across 49 states, six metropolitan areas and the District of Columbia, Arizona ranks 50th and 49th in key categories.

“This is a case where being last means you are doing well,” says Wayne Tormala, chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Tobacco & Chronic Disease. “Being 50th means our rates are the lowest.”

Arizona has the lowest incidence of all cancers combined among men and women, the lowest rate of cancers among men, and the second lowest rate of all cancers among women.

“Of course, the news that Arizona has the lowest cancer rates of the 50 states is extremely welcome,” says David S. Alberts, M.D., director of the Arizona Cancer Center, told the AJP

“Unfortunately,” says Alberts, “our lowest rates are extremely high when compared to other continents, and cancer continues to be the leading cause of death (2:1 compared to heart disease) for all of us under age 85.

“A major reason why Arizona’s cancer rates are lower relates to our larger Hispanic and Native American populations that have relatively low rates of the common cancers. Sadly, because of the acculturation of these populations to the Western lifestyle (i.e. high fat, low fruit and vegetables diet, together with low levels of leisure time physical activity), Arizona’s cancer rates will begin to rise dramatically into the mid-21st century. So, we must put a much greater effort into reducing tobacco use and excessive alcohol intake, while improving nutrition and increasing physical activity, observing American Cancer Society breast, colon, and cervix screening guidelines, and following guidelines for vaccinations against hepatitis A and B and the human papilloma virus,” says Alberts.

While Arizona’s overall rates of cancer may be lower than in other states, according to the Arizona Cancer Registry, more people in Arizona are diagnosed with cancer at later stages.

“This truly makes the case for early detection and screening,” says Sharlene Bozack, chief government relations officer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Great West Division.

ACS screening guidelines recommend:

• yearly mammograms for women starting at age 40

• a prostate exam (PSA) every 1-2 years for men over age 45, dependent upon personal risk factors

• a colonoscopy every 10 years for men and women over age 50