American Lung Association Finds That Alabama Can do More to Reduce the Toll of Lung Cancer — the #1 Cancer Killer of Women and Men

Every two and a half minutes someone in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer. The American Lung Association’s inaugural LUNG FORCE "State of Lung Cancer” report is the first time that these national and state lung cancer statistics have been analyzed in one report to show how the toll of lung cancer varies across the country, and how Alabama can do more to protect their residents from lung cancer.

"There will be over 4,190 people in Alabama diagnosed with lung cancer and 3,140 will succumb to the deadly disease in 2018. More must be done to save lives,” said American Lung Association Regional Director of Public Policy, Ashley Lyerly. “The American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative was created to help defeat lung cancer and give hope to families facing this diagnosis. In order to do so, we need a multipronged approach that engages a variety of tactics and stakeholders to address the disease, its risk factors, and access to preventative health services and treatment options.”

In its first year, the LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” finds that lung cancer diagnoses and survival rates vary state by state. By better understanding the impact of lung cancer at the state level, we can enact policies and focus attention on where the need is greatest. This report covers the following measures of lung cancer burden, and shows where Alabama ranks in comparison to the rest of the United States:

  • Incidence: On average, the higher prevalence of smoking, the more lung cancer cases in a state. Alabama ranks 41 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia with a lung cancer incidence of 71.7 per 100,000 people, which parallels the current smoking rate of 21.5 percent. There are a variety of risk factors associated with lung cancer, including smoking, exposure to radon gas, air pollution and secondhand smoke. Radon testing and mitigation, healthy air protections, and reducing the smoking rate through tobacco tax increases, smokefree air laws and access to comprehensive quit smoking services are all effective ways to prevent new lung cancer cases.
  • Survival Rate: Lung cancer is often not caught at an early stage when it is more likely to be curable. The five-year lung cancer survival rate ranges from 24 percent in New York to 15.9 percent in Louisiana, with Alabama at 16.3 percent. Yet only 31 states track this important metric, which should be implemented by all states to enhance monitoring of lung cancer, and help identify how to improve lung cancer survival.  
  • Stage at Diagnosis: People diagnosed at early stages of lung cancer are five times more likely to survive, but unfortunately only 18.9 percent of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. In Alabama, only 18.8 percent of lung cancer cases were diagnosed at early stages, when it is most likely to be curable.
  • Screening Centers: The availability of accredited lung cancer screening sites has been shown to be positively related to survival of lung cancer, with each additional screening site per million people being associated with a 0.3 point increase in the lung cancer survival rate. Alabama ranks 22 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, with 4.5 screening centers per million people. Supporting awareness of these screening facilities, as well as criteria for low-dose CT scans, can improve patient outcomes.
  • Surgical Treatment: Lung cancer is more likely to be curable if the tumor can be surgically removed, and surgery is more likely to be an option if the diagnosis is made at an early stage before the cancer has spread. In Alabama, 19 percent of cases underwent surgery as part of the first course of treatment, ranking 35 out of 48 states and the District of Columbia. In addition to screening centers, quality healthcare and new treatment options for lung cancer are needed to increase survival rates.

"While we have seen some advancements in lung cancer treatment options and a new method of early detection, the burden of lung cancer is not the same everywhere," said Lyerly. "Treatment, exposure to risk factors, and access to screening facilities vary from state to state, and Alabama’s leaders must do more to act and implement proven policies to reduce the deadly toll of lung cancer."

On Wednesday, March 14, Tina Castello from Hoover, will be heading to Capitol Hill to share her story and these startling statistics with members of Congress. LUNG FORCE Heroes from all 50 states will be asking Congress to support increased funding for the National Institutes of Health for better treatment and early detection of lung cancer, as well as sharing why quality and affordable healthcare is especially important for lung cancer patients.

"Lung cancer has killed the two most important men in my life…my father and my husband," said Tina Castello. "This is why I fight. We need more voices in this fight against cancer and I am proud to share my story and advocate on behalf of the millions of people that have been affected by lung cancer."

The LUNG FORCE "State of Lung Cancer" report is both a guide post and rallying cry, providing policymakers, researchers, healthcare practitioners, as well as patients, caregivers and others committed to ending lung cancer, with a one-stop resource for identifying how their state can best focus to support lung cancer patients, their caregivers, and those at high risk for lung cancer.

For media interested in speaking with an expert about the LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report, or Tina Castello on her upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 470-233-7030.

For more information, contact:

Britney Reddick
[email protected]

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