Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States for both men and women. Overall, lung cancer rates are on the decline along with rates of tobacco usage. However, there are important differences in the trends for men and women and for different states.
S. Jane Henley and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed data for the years 1999 to 2008. Over this time period, the CDC has recommended and supported state efforts to reduce smoking. These efforts include programs to discourage smoking initiation, encourage smoking cessation, and protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.
“Decreases in lung cancer incidence and the correlation between lung cancer incidence and quit ratios provide compelling evidence of the value of these control efforts,” Henley reported. States with lower rates of current smoking and higher numbers of residents who have quit smoking have significantly lower rates of lung cancer.
For men, lung cancer rates decreased in 35 of the 44 states that had sufficient data for the analysis. Male lung cancer rates remained constant in the remaining nine states. All regions of the country had similar rates of lung cancer decline.
For women, the picture is not so rosy. Only six states had declines in lung cancer rates: California, Nevada, Washington, Florida, and Oregon. Female lung cancer rates remained stable in 24 states, and increased in 14 states.
Western states, led by California, had the lowest rates of smoking and lung cancer for both men and women. Overall, women still have lower rates of lung cancer than men. However, men in the west reached rates comparable to women in the south by 2008.
“In fiscal year 2011, states will collect $25.3 billion from tobacco excise taxes and the tobacco settlement,” Henley reported. Less than 2 percent of these revenues are invested in tobacco control programs. States such as California that invest more fully in such programs see significantly better results, including healthcare savings, according to the CDC analysis.