New Report Reveals West Virginia Lags Behind Country in Lung Cancer Survival, Has Highest Adult Smoking Rates in the Nation and Second Highest Rates for New Lung Cancer Cases

American Lung Association examines toll of lung cancer in West Virginia, underscores urgent need for more high-risk people to be screened to increase survivorship

The 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report reveals that West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation for new lung cancer cases and 51 for number of adults who are currently smoking. This means that West Virginia has the second highest rates in the nation for new lung cancer cases and the worst in the nation for adults who currently smoke, so much more work is needed to reduce the burden of lung cancer. The American Lung Association’s 6th annual report, released today, highlights the toll of lung cancer in West Virginia and examines key indicators including new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates.

The report also found that West Virginia ranked poorly for lung cancer survival at 22.4% (37 out of 42 states measured for this indicator). This marks a 23% improvement over the past five years. Nationally, the “State of Lung Cancer” report found that lung cancer survival rates are improving for everyone, including people of color. In fact, the five-year lung cancer survival rate for people of color has increased by 17% in the last two years, helping close the health disparity gap.

“Smoking is a leading risk factor for lung cancer and here in West Virginia, we have the highest smoking rate and the second highest lung cancer incident rate in the nation. That is why the Lung Association calls on state legislators to increase funding to tobacco control and cessation efforts, which have been dramatically underfunded year after year to the cost of countless lives, said Aimee VanCleave, Director of Advocacy, West Virginia, at the American Lung Association. “Thankfully, the lung cancer survival rate in the state has improved because of increased awareness, improved access to healthcare and cutting-edge research into new treatments for the disease. However, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths here in West Virginia and across the nation, and while the state has shown improvement over the past five years for new cases, survival and early diagnosis, our recent report makes it clear that we have much more work to do.”

The report found that West Virginia ranked:

  • 47 out of 48 in the nation for rate of new lung cancer cases at 76.1 per 100,000 people, which is second worst in the nation and a 13% improvement over the past five years. The national rate is 54.6 per 100,000.
  • 37 out of 42 in the nation for survival at 22.4%, ranking among the worst in the nation and marking a 23% improvement over the past five years. The national rate of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 26.6%.
  • 24 out of 47 in the nation for early diagnosis at 26.8%, marking a 24% improvement over the past five years. Nationally, only 26.6% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher.
  • 25 out of 51 in the nation for lung cancer screening at 5.0%. Lung cancer screening with annual low-dose CT scans for those at high risk can reduce the lung cancer death rate by up to 20%. Nationally, only 4.5% of those at high risk were screened.
  • 21 out of 47 in the nation for surgery at 20.4%. Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Nationally, 20.8% of cases underwent surgery.
  • 34 out of 47 in the nation for lack of treatment at 21.6%. Nationally, 20.6% of cases receive no treatment.
  • 51 out of 51 in the nation for adults who currently smoke at 22%, which is the worst in the nation. Nationally, 13.5% of adults currently smoke.

The 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report highlights that West Virginia must do more to reduce the burden of lung cancer and encourages everyone to help end lung cancer. Join the Lung Association’s efforts by asking your member of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 4286, the Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act at Lung.org/SOLC.

 

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