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Cancer Rates Slightly Up in NY, Deaths Down

12:03 AM, Dec 1, 2012   |    comments
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By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- The number of cancer cases in New York grew slightly since last year, up 2 percent to more than 109,000 incidences.

But the number of cancer deaths in New York dropped by about 200 deaths, a less than 1 percent decline, a study from the American Cancer Society estimated.

The rise in cancer cases -- 109,440 cases in 2012, up from 107,620 the year prior -- was driven mainly by a surge in melanoma and prostate cancer, according to the study. The American Cancer Society uses data from past years to project incidence and mortality rates.

Incidences of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, increased by 25 percent from last year. There are now more than 4,700 estimated cases in New York, up from 3,750 in 2011.

Melanoma deaths increased 6.8 percent; there are an estimated 470.

"It's not a surprise, as we've seen melanoma on the rise. It reflects the sun-worshipping, indoor-tanning experience culture in New York, and it's taking its toll," said Blair Horner, vice president for advocacy for the American Cancer Society of NY and NJ.

The "tan ban," a law Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed earlier this year to prohibit 14- to 16-year-olds from using tanning booths, will help, Horner said, but tanners are still unaware of the serious consequences of ultra-violet radiation exposure.

"To get young people who view themselves as invulnerable to understand the potential consequences, you have to come up with very aggressive public education," Horner said.

He added that anti-smoking campaigns, including graphic advertisements, have been effective in encouraging smokers to quit.

Lung cancer mortality rates increased 3.5 percent since last year, with an estimated 8,880 related deaths in 2012. The number of cases, though, declined. There were 13,620, about a 4.1 percent drop from last year.

Horner said the increasing mortality rates for lung cancer are consistent with a "disturbing trend."

"No one needs to smoke, and no one needs to go to an indoor tanning facility, unless they have a prescription from their doctor," he said. "So those are lifestyle experiences that drive up the cancer rate and the mortality rate, and the government needs to do everything they can to drive those rates down."

The state Department of Health operates a tobacco control program, which began in 2000. The office coordinates smoking cessation media campaigns and crafts state policy. Also, the state will soon launch a federally funded Medicaid incentives program encouraging smokers to quit.

The cancer with the highest incidence in New York, prostate cancer, increased 7.2 percent since last year, bringing the number of cases to 17,090. There was a 9 percent drop in deaths, down to 1,610.

Breast cancer incidence and death rates decreased. There were 14,730 cases and 2,420 deaths in 2012.

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