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University of Iowa News Release


March 9, 2009

IMAGES: (link to high resolution image) County-by-County Map Showing Estimated Number of New Cancers in Iowa for 2009
The State Health Registry of Iowa estimates that the number of new cancers diagnosed in Iowa in 2009 will be 16,000. The number is the same as last year's projection. Credit: State Health Registry of Iowa

(link to high resolution image) County-by-County Map Showing Estimated Number of New Cancer Deaths in Iowa for 2009
Experts with the State Health Registry of Iowa are estimating there will be 6,300 deaths from cancer among Iowans in 2009. While the number is comparable to that of previous years, cancer could soon exceed heart disease as Iowa's leading cause of death. Credit: State Health Registry of Iowa

State Health Registry provides latest on cancer in Iowa

The number of cancer deaths and new cancer cases in Iowa is projected to remain the same as last year, but cancer could soon exceed heart disease as the leading cause of death in the state, said an expert with the State Health Registry of Iowa, located in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

The annual "Cancer in Iowa" report presented today also highlighted the value of state and national cancer data sources, which help advance efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. In particular, such resources can help identify and reduce disparities in cancer care.

The report, based on data from the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Cancer Registry, includes county-by-county statistics. The report is available online in the "publications" section at or by calling the registry at 319-335-8609.

In 2009, an estimated 6,300 Iowans will die from cancer and 16,000 new cancers will be diagnosed, the report stated.

"The numbers are comparable to what the State Health Registry has been reporting in recent years, and there have not been any major shifts," said Charles Lynch, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of the registry and a UI professor of epidemiology.

And while heart disease still exceeds cancer as a cause of death in Iowa, that could change soon. Minnesota has reported that cancer deaths have already surpassed heart disease deaths there.

"When we look at age-adjusted death rates for heart disease and cancer through year 2005, the rates are getting closer in Iowa," Lynch said. "If these rates continue on the same path, cancer may be the number one cause of death in Iowa by the end of the decade. Both cancer and heart disease deaths are declining in the state, but heart disease mortality has been declining faster for a longer period of time."

Early cancer detection and improved treatments have helped reduce cancer mortality, and lifestyle changes can make a difference.

"Cancer is strongly influenced by both genetic and environmental factors. Important preventive steps people can take to prevent cancer include smoking cessation, healthy eating, regular exercise and reduced alcohol use," Lynch said.

The "big four" cancers -- breast, colorectal, lung and prostate -- continue to account for more than half of all cancer deaths in Iowa. However, pancreatic cancer is becoming a more common cause of cancer death, due largely to declining prostate cancer mortality.

"In a few areas of the state, pancreatic cancer is among the top four most common causes of cancer death," Lynch said. "Unfortunately, survival for pancreatic cancer is poor. It's difficult to diagnose, and many people are in the advanced stage when diagnosed."

This year's cancer report highlighted how cancer data sources provide valuable information to researchers and the general public. Resources include:

--"Iowa Cancer Data,"
--State Cancer Profiles,
--National Cancer Institute,
--Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.,
--Iowa Consortium for Comprehensive Cancer Control,

"There's a lot of information available that can help with efforts to control and even conquer cancer," Lynch said.

George Weiner, M.D., director of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI, said the availability of cancer data is particularly important when addressing cancer incidence and care disparities.

"Data sources can indicate whether a certain cancer or stage of cancer is more common and allow us to focus on figuring out why that is true," said Weiner, who also is president of the Iowa Consortium for Comprehensive Cancer Control. "Data sources also can help with the development of educational efforts and public policies, as well as advancing clinical care.

"For example, these data help us understand whether differences in the burden of cancer in different areas of Iowa might be due to differences in access to screening or treatment. Most important, this helps us implement programs to address those problems," Weiner added.

The State Health Registry of Iowa has been gathering cancer incidence and follow-up data for the state since 1973. To learn more about the registry visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660,