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In 2019, Kentucky had the nation’s highest age-adjusted cancer incidence rate at 516.6 per 100,000 people, followed by Iowa at 501.8 and Louisiana at 498.8. Nevada had the lowest rate at 351.5 per 100,000 people, then Arizona at 379.5, and New Mexico at 381.0.

According to 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, the nationwide cancer rate was 450.8 per 100,000 people.[1]

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Cancer mortality rates by state

Mississippi had the highest cancer mortality rate at 178.8 per 100,000 people, followed by Kentucky at 176.1 and West Virginia at 173.7. Utah had the lowest rate at 117.8 cases per 100,000, followed by Colorado at 126.0 and Hawaii at 126.7.

According to 2019 CDC data, the nationwide cancer mortality rate was 146.0 per 100,000 people.

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Separately, Puerto Rico had the lowest cancer mortality rate and second-lowest cancer rate compared to the states. (The CDC has collected cancer data for Puerto Rico since 2005 but does not have extensive data on other US territories.)

Why do cancer rates vary by state?

US cancer rates vary by demographic factors, behavioral patterns, healthcare accessibility, and racial backgrounds. Racial and ethnic data shows that certain groups experience higher rates of specific cancers. For instance, non-Hispanic Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer compared to non-Hispanic White women, while non-Hispanic Black men face elevated rates of prostate cancer.

Lifestyle choices, particularly smoking, also contribute to rate variations. States with higher smoking prevalence tend to have increased rates of tobacco-associated cancers such as lung cancer. Healthcare access may also play a role: states with lower insurance coverage rates can lead to disparities in preventative screenings needed to combat cancer in its early stages.

While age-adjusted rates enable comparisons across states, age could also lead to regional variations. The risk of cancer depends on both known and unknown factors that either decrease or increase cancer rates within a population, making it challenging to attribute differential rates to a single cause. Understanding these nuances is crucial for interpreting cancer data and identifying locations requiring targeted interventions based on age-specific risk profiles.

By recognizing the multifaceted nature of factors influencing cancer rates, policymakers and public health officials can develop evidence-based strategies to address disparities and reduce the overall burden of cancer across states.

Where does this data come from?

State cancer rate data comes from the US Cancer Statistics Data Visualizations page, which relies on data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute. Data for 2019 state cancer rates was updated as of November 2023.

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US Cancer Statistics Data Visualization
Last updated
November 2023
Cancer Data and Statistics
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June 8, 2023
Guidance for Comparing States’ Cancer Data
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Interpreting Rankings Data
[1]

This rate differs from the cancer mortality rate reported by the National Cancer Institute, which USAFacts sources in other articles about cancer.