Eastern Kentucky has some of the nation’s highest cancer mortality rates, study finds

Eastern Kentucky has some of the highest cancer rates in the U.S., says a study by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. While cancer mortality rates declined 20.1 percent from 1980-2014, death rates in poor counties with high rates of obesity and smoking, such as Eastern Kentucky, rose by about 50 percent. (UW map: Mortality rate for cancer and other neoplasms for both sexes, by county, in 2014)

Researchers used data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the Census Bureau and the Human Mortality Database from 1980 to 2014 for 29 cancers. During that time, there were 19.5 million cancer deaths in the U.S.  From 1980 to 2014, the cancer mortality rate declined from 240.2 to 192 per 100,000.

“In counties with the highest 2014 cancer death rates, six of the top 10 were in Eastern Kentucky,” Lindsey Tanner reports for The Associated Press. “Six of the 10 lowest rates were in the Colorado Rockies. For lung cancer deaths, four of the five counties with the highest 2014 rates were in Eastern Kentucky, with rates up to 80 percent higher than in 1980.” (Map: Percent change in mortality rates for cancer and other neoplasms, 1980-2014)

“Three of the five counties with the lowest 2014 rates were in the Colorado Rockies, where rates dropped by up to 60 percent,” Tanner writes. “Death rates for breast and colorectal cancers increased in Madison County, Mississippi, and in 2014 were at least five times higher there than in Summit County, Colorado, where the rates fell.”

Researchers found that “for many cancers, there were distinct clusters of counties with especially high mortality. Clusters of breast cancer were present in the Southern belt and along the Mississippi River, while liver cancer was high along the Texas-Mexico border, and clusters of kidney cancer were observed in North and South Dakota and counties in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Alaska and Illinois.”

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