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Report: Survival Rates For Iowans With Lung Cancer Among Lowest In Nation

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A new report has found Iowa has one of the lowest five-year survival rates for lung cancer.

Iowa has one of the lowest survival rates for lung cancer in the nation, according to a new report by the American Lung Association.

The annual report found the state’s five-year lung cancer survival rate is 19 percent, which is below the national average of 21.7 percent. It ranks 35th out of the 45 states that had available data.

One of the reasons is because many cases are diagnosed at later stages when they're less likely to be curable, said Alyssa DePhillips, health promotion specialist at the American Lung Association.

"We're really encouraging Iowans to talk to their doctors to see if they're eligible for lung cancer screening because that is the best way to catch lung cancer early so that it can be treated and so that the survival rate is higher," DePhillips said.

The report found about 19 percent of cases in Iowa are diagnosed early, compared to 21.5 percent of cases nationally.

DePhillips said one issue is that Iowa has higher rates of lung cancer instances overall. Iowans are diagnosed with lung cancer at a rate of 63.5 people out of 100,000 people. That rate is 59.6 nationally.

"Iowa has higher smoking rates than the average. [The] Midwest has higher tobacco use rates, and then also because Iowa has higher rates on radon levels in the soil," DePhillips said.

About 90 percent of lung cancer cases are linked to smoking or secondhand smoke, while about 10 percent are linked to radon exposure in the home, she said. Air pollution is another cause.

Iowa has one of the highest rates of indoor radon concentration in the nation, and it's estimated to cause 400 lung cancer-induced deaths a year.

DePhillips said in additional to getting screened for lung cancer, Iowans should test their homes for radon. 

"There isn't any way to for a homeowner to know if they have high radon levels except for to do a short-term test kit," she said. "And it doesn't have immediate health consequences, but it contributes to the potential for lung cancer several years down the road through many years of exposure."