Cancer

Alabama’s #7 Health Concern

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death. All cancer cases diagnosed or treated in Alabama are reported to the Alabama Statewide Cancer Registry (ASCR). The ASCR is a statewide, population-based registry that was established in 1995 by the ADPH in response to state law (Act 95-275) that made cancer a reportable condition. The ASCR has achieved the highest national certifications for data quality and completeness since 2004.

Alabamians identified cancer as the seventh greatest current health concern in Alabama with good reason. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Alabama trailing only diseases of the heart. In the United States, males have slightly less than a 1 in 2 risk of developing cancer over the course of a lifetime. For women, the risk is a little more than 1 in 3 over the course of a lifetime. The risk of being diagnosed with cancer increases with age, and approximately 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 and older. According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 26,150 Alabamians will be diagnosed with cancer in 2015, and an estimated 10,560 Alabamians will die from cancer in 2015.

Alabama Cancer Highlights

  • Although the overall cancer mortality rate for Alabama has been steadily declining for the past few years, Alabamians, particularly men, have higher overall cancer mortality rates than the United States. However, both African American and Caucasian females in Alabama have slightly lower overall cancer mortality rates than their United States counterparts.
  • Lung cancer is the second most reported cancer in males and Caucasian females and the third most reported in African American females.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Alabama with more deaths each year than deaths from breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alabamians have significantly higher rates of lung cancer incidence and mortality compared to the United States. This is true for all race and gender groupings except African American females which have significantly lower incidence and mortality rates for lung cancer than their United States counterparts.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third most reported cancer in males and Caucasian females and the second most reported in African American females.
  • For males and females combined, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in Alabama.
  • There has been an overall decline in both cancer incidence and mortality rate for colorectal cancer in Alabama over the past few years.
  • Although Alabamians as a whole have higher incidence rates of colorectal cancer than the United States, only African American males in Alabama have higher mortality rates than their United States counterparts.
  • Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer and the second leading cause of death from cancer in women.
  • African American females in Alabama have significantly higher rates of breast cancer incidence than Caucasian females in Alabama. This is unique because in the rest of the county as a whole, Caucasian females have significantly higher breast cancer incidence rates.
  • Caucasian females in Alabama have slightly lower incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer than the United States.
  • African American females in Alabama have significantly higher incidence rates but slightly lower mortality rates than the United States.
  • Prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer and the second leading cause of death from cancer in men.
  • Prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates in Alabama have been significantly declining over the past few years.
  • Prostate cancer occurs significantly more in African American males than Caucasian men, and African American males also have significantly higher mortality rates for prostate cancer.
  • Caucasian males in Alabama have approximately the same incidence and mortality rates for prostate cancer as the United States while African American males in Alabama have both higher incidence and mortality rates than their United States comparison group.

Health Indicators

The following indicators have been selected for use in developing a benchmark or starting point for measuring the current state and monitoring future changes in the state of cancer in Alabama:

These four cancer groupings were chosen because they represent more than 55 percent of all new tumors reported to the ASCR. Additionally, the burden of each of these cancers could be reduced through behavior modifications such as smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise, improved nutrition, and regular screening examinations by a health care professional. More cancer indicators (survival rates, screening rates, and cancer staging) may be added in the future.

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Page last updated: July 2, 2018