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University of Iowa News Release


March 21, 2007

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State Health Registry Releases 'Cancer in Iowa: 2007'

In 2007, an estimated 6,400 Iowans will die from cancer and 15,700 new cancers will be diagnosed, according to new figures released today by the State Health Registry of Iowa, based in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The projected numbers appear in the "Cancer in Iowa: 2007" report and are based on data from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Cancer Registry, including county-by-county statistics.

Links to the "Cancer in Iowa: 2007" 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," said Charles Lynch, M.D., Ph.D., (left) UI professor of epidemiology and medical director of the registry. "The four main cancers -- lung, female breast, prostate and colorectal cancers -- will account for more than half of all new cancers and cancer deaths in 2007, with lung cancer alone accounting for about three of every ten cancer-related deaths."

Among new cancer cases in women, 27 percent will be breast cancer, 12 percent colorectal cancer and 12 percent lung cancer. The most common types of new cancer cases in men will be prostate (26 percent), lung (16 percent) and colorectal (12 percent). These projections follow the trends of past years.

The top three types of estimated cancer deaths for women and men remain unchanged from previous years. For women, leading cancer deaths will be lung (25 percent), breast (13 percent) and colorectal (11 percent). For men, leading cancer deaths will be lung (33 percent), prostate (11 percent) and colorectal (10 percent). However, in 2007 more deaths are estimated to occur due to pancreatic cancer (men and women combined) than for prostate cancer.

The report also discusses the progress that has been made toward cancer mortality goals for Healthy Iowans 2010, a health plan for the state of Iowa.

Cancer mortality information for the state of Iowa from 1994 to 1996 was used to establish baseline mortality rates for various cancer types when Healthy Iowans 2010 was published initially. The 2007 report calculates rates from the most recently available data, for the years 2003 to 2005, and the percent improvement in mortality rates is translated into the number of lives saved from cancer.

"Based on the sex and age-specific rates that we were experiencing between 1994 and 1996 and compared to what we are actually observing today, 3,066 lives have been saved from cancer in Iowa from 1997 to 2005," Lynch said.

The greatest improvements in mortality rates are seen in prostate (down 28 percent), colorectal (down 19 percent) and female breast (down 24 percent). Indeed, prostate cancer mortality rates for 2003 to 2005 have already reached the target set for Health Iowans 2010.

The percent improvement in mortality rates for lung cancer is small (down 2 percent). However, because this is such a common cause of cancer death, the reduction in death from lung cancers in men accounts for 982 lives saved. In contrast, 323 more women have died of this disease than expected.

"This is because of the difference in incidence rates for lung cancer, which are still increasing in women, while they are declining in men," Lynch said. "However, the absolute risk is still lower for women than it is for men."

Lynch added that the decline in lung cancer deaths can be attributed to tobacco cessation, which has reduced the number of new lung cancer cases.

New screening methods capable of detecting cancer earlier and new therapies also are likely to be playing a role in the decline in cancer deaths, said George Weiner, M.D., (left) director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and the C.E. Block Chair of Cancer Research.

About half of the decline in breast cancer deaths appears to be due to mammography screening and about half to improved therapy. For colorectal and prostate cancer, the reasons why lives are being saved are less clear, although the scientific literature suggests screening and better therapy are likely reasons.

"The progress being made in reducing cancer mortality rates is very encouraging. It is indicative of the advances we've made in both treating and preventing cancer," said Weiner, who also is chair of the Iowa Consortium for Comprehensive Cancer Control.

Progress with saving lives from cancer has been seen across most age groups and in both urban and rural counties.  One less encouraging statistic identified by the report is a racial disparity, showing that more black men and women died of cancer in Iowa between 1997 and 2005 than expected, based on the baseline rates.

"We don't have an exact explanation for this health disparity. It could be insurance access, income and/or more aggressive disease. We don't know the exact reasons. Nevertheless, blacks are not benefiting as much from our advances as whites," Lynch said.

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, 5135 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

CONTACT: Jennifer Brown, 319-335-9917

PHOTO: Photos of Dr. Lynch and Dr. Weiner are available from Jennifer Brown,