Cancer survivors in Appalachian Kentucky have greater risk of 2nd cancer than those in non-Appalachian counties, study finds

By Elizabeth Chapin
University of Kentucky

While cancer survivors have an increased risk of developing cancer in the future, that risk is notably higher in Kentucky and Appalachian Kentucky, according to a new UK Markey Cancer Center study.

Published in Frontiers in Oncology, the study shows that cancer survivors in Kentcky’s 54 Appalachian counties had a significantly increased risk of developing cancer again (either the same cancer or a new type of cancer) compared to those in non-Appalachian Kentucky.

Survivors of smoking-related cancers in both Appalachian and non-Appalachian Kentucky were more likely to get cancer again, with no ststistical difference between the two regions.

Kentucky has the nation’s highest rates of cancer incidence and death from cancer, with Appalachian Kentucky bearing the greatest burden, driven by health behaviors such as smoking and lack of screening.

The study’s findings highlight the necessity for, and will help to inform, ongoing prevention interventions among cancer survivors in Kentucky.

“The higher risk of subsequent cancers, especially in Appalachia, emphasizes the importance of targeted interventions to address the specific challenges faced by survivors in this region,” said the study’s lead author Jill Kolesar, a professor in UK’s College of Pharmacy, director of the Markey Cancer Center’s Precision Medicine Center and co-director of Markey’s Molecular Tumor Board.

The research team examined data from more than 148,000 adult-onset cancer survivors who were diagnosed with first primary cancers between 2000 and 2014 and followed them for at least five years post-diagnosis. More than 12% of the survivors developed cancer again.

Among both men and women, larynx and lung cancers had the highest risk of redeveloping. While survivors from Kentucky’s Appalachian counties have an increased likelihood of subsequent cancers, compared to those in non-Appalachian counties, that was not the case for smoking-related primary cancers, the study found.

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