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Annual cancer report finds increase in Iowa cancer cases, but fewer deaths

Marcelo Leal
The latest report from the Iowa Cancer Center found cancer cases are predicted to be higher in 2023 than they were 50 years ago.

The latest annual report from the Iowa Cancer Registry found Iowa has the second highest incidence rate of cancer cases in the country.

According to the 2023 Cancer in Iowa report, Iowa is second only to Kentucky when it comes to incidence rates of cancer and was the only state with a significant increase in cancer cases from 2015 to 2019, the most recent state-level data available.

The report predicted 20,800 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in Iowans this year, an increase in 800 from 2022's report. About 6,200 deaths will be from cancer, a decrease of 100 from last year.

The rate of new cancer cases in Iowa is expected to double this year as compared to cases 50 years ago, when the first report was issued, said Mary Charlton, the director of the Iowa Cancer Registry and an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Iowa.

However, cancer mortality rates have significantly improved since then due to an increase in early detection and advancements in treatment, she said.

“So the bad news is, yes, we are high in cancer," Charlton said. "But the good news is people aren't dying from it nearly as much as they used to. We’re keeping that number of deaths stable.”

Breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancers make up half of all cancers in Iowa.

It’s unclear why Iowa’s cancer rates are so high, but Charlton said many factors, like high alcohol use and low activity levels, likely contribute.

"There's no smoking gun or something really exciting that we can do," she said. "I think it's just a lot of things collectively that we need to do as a population."

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter
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