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Some forms of cancer rising in Delaware, but mortality rate is dropping

By Rhoda Baer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

New data shows Delaware’s cancer mortality rate continues to decline, but certain types of cancer are on the rise.

The First State’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) released its annual Cancer Incidence and Mortality Report Monday.

It shows cancer mortality in the First State declined by 14%—the same as the national average. But the overall rate of cancer incidence in Delaware is declining slower than the rest of the nation, with liver, pancreatic and female breast cancer on the rise. 

Delaware’s Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay says that’s in part due to earlier cancer screening.

“We’re number two in the nation for breast cancer screenings. So that’s great. So we are going to identify more cancers, earlier, which is a good thing,” said Rattay.

But Rattay adds Delawareans lead less healthy lives and make poorer health decisions than people in other parts of the country. She notes this attributes to the uptick of some cancers in Delaware.

“Healthy eating, active living, tobacco use—Delaware does worse than other states for those indicators,” she said. “Certainly higher breast cancer and other cancers can be attributed to those lifestyle factors.”

Rattay touts the recent passage of legislation in Delaware raising the smoking age and requiring healthier beverages for children in restaurants as steps to address the state’s lifestyle issues.

The study compared cancer averages between 2001 and 2005 to averages between 2011 and 2015. The rate of breast cancer incidence in Delaware went up 6% over the ten-year period, while the rest of the nation’s rate dropped 4%. Delaware ranked ninth nationally in breast cancer incidence between 2011 and 2015.

Liver cancer in Delaware rose sharply over the same period at 75%, compared a 57% rise nationally. Rattay points out liver cancer affects far less people than some of the other forms, but adds the uptick is due, in part, to a sharp rise in Hepatitis C across the country linked to the opioid crisis.

“We’re starting to see a rise in Hepatitis C among younger I.V. drug users,” she said. “So it’s really important that folks are being tested for Hepatitis C if there’s any risk at all.”

Pancreatic cancer rose 17% in Delaware over the same ten-year period while it went up only 8% nationally.

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