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University of Iowa News Release

March 1, 2006

Photos: Charles Lynch, Timothy Ryken, George Weiner (left to right)

State Health Registry Releases 'Cancer In Iowa: 2006'

Iowa will experience 6,300 cancer deaths and 16,000 new cancer cases in 2006, according to the annual report issued today by the State Health Registry, which is based in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The "Cancer in Iowa: 2006" report also discusses brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors. As part of a new nationwide effort, the registry is collecting data on nonmalignant (benign or borderline) brain/CNS tumors, in addition to their malignant (invasive) counterparts. The information will advance surveillance and research, in part because either nonmalignant or malignant brain/CNS tumors can have a severe outcome, depending, in particular, on the location of the tumor.

Links to the "Cancer in Iowa: 2006" report and reports from previous years are available in the "Publications" section at the registry's Web site, People may also request a copy of the report by calling the registry at 319-335-8609.

"Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Iowa, accounting currently for 230 of every 1,000 deaths," said Charles Lynch, M.D., Ph.D., UI professor of epidemiology and medical director of the registry. "Although there are many types of cancer, breast, lung, prostate and colorectal are the four major types of cancer in the state and nation."

The projections are based on data from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Cancer Registry and include county-by-county statistics.

The three most common types of new cancer cases in women will be breast (28 percent), colorectal (13 percent) and lung (12 percent). The most common types of new cancer cases in men will be prostate (27 percent), lung (15 percent) and colorectal (12 percent). These projections follow the trends of past years.

The top three types of projected cancer deaths for women and men remain unchanged from previous years. For women, leading cancer deaths will be lung (24 percent), breast (14 percent) and colorectal (11 percent). For men, leading cancer deaths will be lung (33 percent), prostate (12 percent) and colorectal (10 percent).

"Iowans can reduce their cancer risk through modifying their lifestyles to include regular exercise, healthy diets, moderate alcohol use and elimination of tobacco products," Lynch said.

Lynch said that the new effort to count nonmalignant brain/CNS tumors began in Iowa with tumors diagnosed on or after Jan. 1, 2004, following national efforts by the Brain Tumor Working Group of the National Coordinating Council for Cancer Surveillance and federal and state legislation.

"The data will help us assess the burden of these tumors across different populations, gender, ages and other characteristics," Lynch said. "In time, we can evaluate trends. Equally important, this newly collected information can be used to conduct special research studies aimed at improving our understanding of brain/CNS tumor subtypes."

Brain cancer will cause approximately 80 deaths in women and 90 deaths in men in Iowa this year. Registry information from a pilot study conducted in 2000 revealed 213 cases of malignant brain/CNS tumors and 274 cases of nonmalignant brain/CNS tumors that were newly diagnosed in Iowans. Three types of tumors account for about 75 percent of all nonmalignant brain cancers: meningioma (which affects the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord), pituitary adenoma and vestibular schwannoma (which can affect hearing). Glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor.

Timothy Ryken, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics, said a better understanding of brain tumor subtypes will help researchers plan for clinical trials at the UI.

"The ability to separate out these different types allows us to figure out in the state and within the region how many patients we can expect with any one of these different types of tumors," Ryken said.

"When we know, for example, how many patients in Iowa we can expect to have a particular type of malignant primary brain tumor, we can project how many we might be able enroll in a trial. Whether we will have enough patients is a question that comes up frequently as we consider the UI's participation in national trials," he added.

Ryken said this approach helps research teams target limited resources effectively and provide important options for patients.

"For most malignant primary brain tumors, we don't have cures, so many people after a first round of therapy are looking for clinical trials and they will need to go to where the trials are available," Ryken said.

Ryken said that adding non-cancerous brain tumors to the registry also is important because registry data provide survival rates for the entire population of Iowa.

"Because patients in clinical trials are selected for certain characteristics such as age and lack of co-existing conditions, you cannot necessarily apply their survival rate directly to the population of Iowans," Ryken said. "The registry information gives a better picture of what is happening within each of these diseases in the overall population."

Technology advances in recent years have improved brain tumor treatment approaches at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. Image-guided machines help UI surgeons plan operations in one of the most delicate areas of the human body. Other technology enables specialists in the UI Center for Excellence in Image-Guided Radiation Therapy to pinpoint radiation treatments, minimizing damage to healthy tissue and precisely targeting tumors within .07 millimeters rather than the old standard of five to 15 millimeters.

"The Holden Center offers the most current radiation therapy options in the world to treat patients with cancer and some benign lesions, such as certain brain tumors. The new data collection approach by the registry and other advances will allow our experts to work across disciplines and institutions on treatments for brain tumors," said George Weiner, M.D., director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and the C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research. Weiner also is chair of the Iowa Consortium for Comprehensive Cancer Control.

More than 150 hospitals, clinics and medical laboratories across Iowa, as well as referral facilities in neighboring states, contribute data to the State Health Registry of Iowa. The registry is one of 17 registries nationwide that currently are funded to provide data to the National Cancer Institute. Iowa's registry staff includes 50 members, half of whom are located throughout the state and help collect data from many facilities. The registry has been gathering cancer incidence and follow-up data for the state since 1973.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

REPORT CONTACT: For copies of the "Cancer in Iowa: 2006" report, visit the "Publications" section at or call the State Health Registry of Iowa at 319-335-8609

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319 335-6660