The 2021 “State of Lung Cancer” report shows that people of color who are diagnosed with lung cancer face worse outcomes compared to whites, and that Alaska ranks among worst in the nation for early diagnosis of lung cancer.
The American Lung Association’s 4th annual report, released today, highlights how the toll of lung cancer varies by state and examines key indicators throughout the U.S. including: new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates. This is the second year that the “State of Lung Cancer” report explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic minority groups at the national and state levels.
The report reveals that the lung cancer five-year survival rate increased 14.5% nationally to 23.7% yet remains significantly lower among communities of color. In fact, while the national lung cancer survival rate increased, it remains at only 20% for communities of color and 18% for Black Americans. In our state, Native Alaskans are the most likely group to be diagnosed with lung cancer.
“While we celebrate that more Americans are surviving lung cancer, too many people are being left behind, and the disease remains the leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Carrie Nyssen, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Alaska. “Much more can and must be done in Alaska to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease, especially in terms of early-stage diagnosis and cases among our Native population.”
The report found that Alaska ranked:
• 17th in the nation for lung cancer incidence at 55.3 per 100,000. Incidence refers to the number of new cases of lung cancer in each state. The national lung cancer incidence is 57.7 per 100,000.
• 39 in the nation for survival at 20.6%. The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%.
• 47th in the nation for early diagnosis at just 20.6%. Nationally, 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.
• 31st in the nation for lung cancer screening at 5.9%. 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 5.7% of those at high risk were screened.
• 35th in the nation for surgery at 18%. Lung cancer can often be treated with surgery if it is diagnosed at an early stage and has not spread. Nationally, 20.7% of cases underwent surgery.
• 23rd in the nation for lack of treatment at 19.7%. Nationally, 21.1% of cases receive no treatment.
• In Alaska, Indigenous Peoples are the most likely to receive a lung cancer diagnosis.
While the “State of Lung Cancer” report findings show significant work to be done, there is hope. In March of 2021, the United States Preventive Services Task Force expanded its recommendation for screening to include a larger age range and more current or former smokers. This dramatically increased the number of women and Black Americans who are eligible for lung cancer screening.
The Lung Association encourages everyone to join the effort to end lung cancer. Go to Lung.org/solc to learn more about lung cancer in your state and sign our petition to increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect our nation’s health from disease, including lung cancer.
For current and former smokers, there are lifesaving resources available. Find out if you are eligible for lung cancer screening at SavedByTheScan.org, and then talk to your doctor about getting screened.