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Release: March 6, 2000

State Health Registry releases Cancer in Iowa 2000 report

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Lung cancer will account for one of every four cancer deaths in Iowa in 2000, maintaining its position as the leading cause of cancer-related death for men and women in the state. The projection is presented in "Cancer in Iowa: 2000," the annual report issued by the State Health Registry of Iowa, based at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The report estimates that cancer will claim the lives of 6,300 Iowans this year. In addition, 14,000 people in the state will face a new cancer diagnosis. The report also projects that half of new cancers in women will be breast, colon and rectum, and lung cancer, while 60 percent of all cancers in men will be either of the prostate, lung, or colon and rectum.

"People need to understand that these three sites in women and three sites in men collectively account for more than half of all cancers," said Charles F. Lynch, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology, and medical director of the Iowa Cancer Registry. "If we are to make progress in reducing cancer incidence in our population, it is important that at least some of this progress be made with these major cancer sites."

Excluding non-melanoma skin cancers, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed female cancer, while prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed male cancer. Lynch said that an estimated 85 percent of the state's approximately 1,700 lung cancer deaths this year will be due to cigarette smoking.

"These lung cancer deaths underscore that cigarette smoking is the single most important preventable cause of cancer mortality in Iowa," he said. In 1997, smoking-related cancer deaths were the fourth leading cause of death in Iowa, behind heart disease, all cancers and cerebrovascular disease. Nationwide, smoking causes about 400,000 of the slightly more than 2 million annual deaths from all causes, or about one in five deaths.

This year's annual report includes a special section on smoking-attributable survival percentages and deaths in Iowa from 1980 to 1997. In that 18-year period, an estimated 28,100 Iowans (7,800 women and 20,300 men) ages 35 and older died from cancer attributed to smoking. These figures do not include deaths due to second-hand smoke or deaths among former smokers.

Lynch noted that early detection and more effective treatments have helped to increase survival rates for many cancers, including smoking-related cancers. However, laryngeal cancer survival rates for women have not increased, and lung and pancreatic cancers in both men and women continue to have very low five-year survival percentages.

The State Health Registry has been gathering cancer incidence and follow-up data for the state since 1973 and includes estimated numbers of new cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths for each county. The registry is one of 10 registries nationwide that provide data to the National Cancer Institute. Lynch said the registry is currently participating in about two dozen funded cancer research studies and continues to maintain cooperative relationships locally with several hospital cancer registries, the Iowa Birth Defects Registry, the Iowa Department of Public Health and several UI research centers.

"The Registry is committed to using its data for purposes of research, education and service to improve the health of Iowans," Lynch said. In addition to Lynch, preparers of the annual report included Michele M. West, Ph.D., registry coordinator for special projects; Charles F. Platz, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of pathology and registry co-investigator; Kathleen M. McKeen, registry director; and programmers Daniel B. Olson, Carla J. Van Hosen, and Diana M. Wagner.

NOTE TO EDITORS: To request a copy of this year's Cancer in Iowa report, contact the State Health Registry at (319) 335-8609.