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Report finds Iowa has fastest growing rate of new cancer in U.S.

The annual Cancer in Iowa report focused on alcohol's role in cancer.
The annual Cancer in Iowa report focused on alcohol's role in cancer.

An estimated 21,000 Iowans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2024, according to an annual report that tracks yearly cancer trends.

The annual Cancer in Iowa report by the Iowa Cancer Registry found Iowa has the fastest-growing rate of new cancers and the second-highest rate of new cancers in the country.

It found the top new diagnoses will be breast, prostate and lung cancer, which are estimated to make up 40.5% of new cancer diagnoses.

However, it found cancer deaths continue to trend downward in Iowa, estimating 6,100 Iowans will die from the disease this year.

This year's report focused on the role of alcohol in contributing to cancer.

Alcohol is known to help contribute to oral cavity, larynx, esophageal, liver and breast cancers, Mary Charlton, professor of epidemiology and director of the Iowa Cancer Registry at the University of Iowa, said.

While there’s no single clear cause for cancer, heavy alcohol use can damage someone’s DNA and cell structure for decades — even if they quit, she said.

"Some of those pieces of the pie are filled in for us by our genetics and history — other things that we cannot modify. But think of alcohol as one of those pieces that we do not want to fill in," Charlton said.

According to the report, Iowa has the fourth highest rate of binge drinking in the country, which the Centers for Disease Control defines as five or more drinks in one occasion for men and four or more for women.

Alcohol abuse, often framed as an individual decision, needs the attention of public health officials and policymakers, Charlton said.

"What are the things that we can do at a population level, whether it's policy legislation, programming, things like that, that make it easier to make the healthy choices and harder to make the less healthy choices?" She said.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter
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