The rate of new cancer diagnoses in Alaska dropped by about 3 percent each year between 2008 and 2014 after holding steady for about a decade, according to a new report from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.
David O’Brien, data analyst at the department’s Alaska Cancer Registry, said he believes the decline in the state’s overall cancer rate is largely driven by significant drops in its rates of lung and prostate cancers.
Nationwide, the rate of new lung cancer cases has declined as fewer people smoke cigarettes. The same trend is apparent in Alaska, O’Brien said. New cases of prostate cancer also declined nationwide, driven in part by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s recommendation against routine screening for the disease, citing concerns of high rates of over-diagnosis, according to the American Cancer Society.
Despite the declining rates, lung and prostate cancers remained the second and third most common cancers in Alaska between 2010 and 2014. Breast cancer was the most common cancer among Alaskans, said the state report.
The 183-page report, released last week, summarizes more than a decade of data on cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths in Alaska.
“Cancer has been the leading cause of death for a long time,” said Julia Thorsness, coordinator of the health department’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program. The report, she said, “helps with allocation of resources and initiatives.”
Here are some of the report’s findings:
• In 2008, about 482 of every 100,000 Alaskans were diagnosed with cancer, compared to 411 of every 100,000 in 2014.
• From 2010 to 2014, there were 13,550 new cases of cancer among Alaskans. Among women, breast cancer was the leading type of cancer. Among men, it was prostate cancer. Those are the most common cancers for women and men nationwide.
• The cancer death rate decreased in Alaska by about 1 percent each year from 1996 to 2014, in line with national trends.
• The overall rate of cancer diagnoses and cancer death in Alaska was higher among men than women.
• From 2005 to 2014, 8,815 Alaska residents died from cancer. Nearly 28 percent of them died from lung and bronchus cancer; 9 percent died from colon and rectum cancer; and 7 percent died from breast cancer.
• From 2010 to 2014, there were 365 cancer diagnoses among children in Alaska. The most common cancer was leukemia, which made up about 28 percent of the cases.
• From 2005 to 2013, 57 children in Alaska died from cancer. The leading type of cancer death among children was leukemia.
• Compared to the statewide average, Alaska Natives had higher rates of colorectal cancer; kidney and renal pelvis cancer; liver cancer; and lung and bronchus cancer. Asians and Pacific Islanders in Alaska had higher-than-average rates of death from liver cancer, and African-Americans had higher rates of prostate cancer.
• From 1996 to 2014, Alaska saw overall decreases in rates of several cancers including bladder cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and leukemia. There were increases in rates of kidney and renal pelvis cancer and liver cancer.