Study: State cancer rates average

Associated Press

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's cancer rates are about on par with the rest of the nation, according to a new state Health Department report.

"We're not particularly good and we're not particularly bad," said Carin Perkins, an epidemiologist with the Health Department's Cancer Surveillance System.

Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach said, "We'll be using this information to determine where our best efforts, and limited resources, should be focused in the coming months and years."

The report, which covers a 12-year period from 1988 to 1999, revealed mixed trends that highlight successes. For example:


Excluding prostate cancer, the overall cancer incidence rate among men dropped 2 percent.

Minnesota's lung cancer rates are considerably lower than those in other states, probably because Minnesotans 20 or 30 years ago were less likely to smoke. Although today, the percentage of smokers in Minnesota mirrors the rest of the nation. "So the advantage we have in lung cancer rates may not last in the future," Perkins said.

The report also outlined some challenges facing the state:

African-American men have the highest cancer rates in the state. Their incidence rate is 30 percent higher and their death rate is 60 percent higher than that of white males.

The overall cancer rate for women grew by about 8 percent. The most significant increases were in breast cancer (6 percent) and lung cancer (25 percent). Those increases offset drops in colorectal, stomach and cervical cancer.

Perkins is alarmed by lung cancer rates among women.

"It indicates women, both nationally and in Minnesota, gave up the smoking habit more slowly than men, and that women in Minnesota gave it up more slowly than women in other states," she said.

The number of breast cancer cases also increased nationally, but at a slower rate than during the mid-1980s. Minnesota's breast cancer mortality rate fell by 20 percent, mostly due to earlier diagnosis and better treatment.


Perkins said the department will use a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta to help finance a partnership with the University of Minnesota, health care providers, insurers and employers to analyze cancer rates and develop strategies to address issues associated with the disease.

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