New Report Reveals Alaska Lags Behind Country in Early Diagnosis of Lung Cancer

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

The 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report reveals that Alaska ranks 42nd in the nation for early diagnosis. This means that Alaska is among the worst in the nation for detecting lung cancer in early stages, so 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 Alaska and examines key indicators including new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates.

The report also found that Alaska ranked 35th in the nation for lung cancer screening and 37th in the nation for surgical intervention. In Alaska, Indigenous Peoples are most likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer. 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.

“Thankfully, in Alaska, the lung cancer survival rate has improved because of increased awareness, improved access to healthcare and cutting-edge research into new treatments for the disease,” said Carrie Nyssen, Senior Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Alaska. “However, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer deaths here in Alaska and across the nation, and our recent report makes it clear that we have more work to do to focus on early diagnosis.”

The report found that Alaska ranked:

  • 18 out of 48 in the nation for rate of new lung cancer cases at 52.8 per 100,000. The national rate is 54.6 per 100,000.
  • 24 out of 42 in the nation for survival at 25.2%. The national rate of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 26.6%.
  • 42 out of 47 in the nation for early diagnosis at 24.2%. Nationally, only 26.6% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the survival rate is much higher.
  • 35 out of 51 in the nation for lung cancer screening at 3.6%. 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.
  • 37 out of 47 in the nation for surgery at 17.2%. 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.
  • 13 out of 47 in the nation for lack of treatment at 17.6%. Nationally, 20.6% of cases receive no treatment.

The 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report highlights that Alaska 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.

For more information, contact:

Katie Geraghty
310-359-6386
[email protected]

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