American Lung Association’s ‘State of Lung Cancer’ Report Finds Maine Among Worst States for New Lung Cancer Cases and Smoking Rates

American Lung Association’s new report examines toll of lung cancer in Maine identifies opportunities to save lives by increasing education and awareness around risk factors such as radon

Lung cancer is the nation’s leading cause of cancer deaths, and it’s estimated that 1,430 Maine residents will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone. The 2020 “State of Lung Cancer” report examines the toll of lung cancer throughout the nation and outlines steps every state can take to better protect its residents from lung cancer. The report found that more Americans are surviving the disease and that Maine must increase efforts to educate residents about various risk factors that might be contributing to its high rate of new cases in order to save lives.

For the first time, the annual “State of Lung Cancer” report also explores the lung cancer burden among racial and ethnic groups at the national and state levels.  Although this report did not indicate that Maine had substantial lung cancer health disparities, it did find that nationally people of color are facing poorer health outcomes than white residents. 

This year’s “State of Lung Cancer” highlights the positive trend of increased lung cancer survival, as the nationwide five-year lung cancer survival rate of 22.6% reflects a 13% improvement over the past five years. In Maine the numbers tell a slightly different story. While the state’s survival rate is 21.8%, it is also among the states with the highest rate of new cases, and the highest smoking rate (17.8%).

“While we celebrate that more Americans are surviving lung cancer, too many people are being left behind, and the disease still remains the leading cause of cancer deaths,” said Lance Boucher, Senior Division Director of State Public Policy for the American Lung Association in Maine. “Much more can and must be done in Maine to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease.”

Dr. Paul Han, Principal Investigator for Maine Lung Cancer Coalition and Director of the Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation at Maine Medical Center Research Institute said, “It’s really disappointing to see Maine among those states with the highest new incidence rate, and it’s even more unfortunate to see we rank as a state with of the worst smoking rates. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, but being educated on risk factors such as tobacco use is a vital part of prevention.  Radon exposure is also an important environmental risk factor for people in many parts of Maine.”

Part of the reason that lung cancer is so deadly is because most cases are diagnosed at a later stage, after the disease has spread. Lung cancer screening is the key to catching lung cancer early when the disease is most curable, but only 22.9% of lung cancer cases nationally are diagnosed at an early stage. While this simple screening test has been available since 2015, only 9.7% of those eligible in Maine have been screened.

“Lung cancer screening is a powerful tool to save lives,” said Dr. Han. “It’s a relatively new test, and we’re only seeing a fraction of those who qualify actually getting screened. We’re pushing for greater awareness of this test to save more lives here in Maine.”

More treatment options are available for lung cancer than ever before, yet not everyone is receiving treatment following diagnosis. In Maine 9.6% of those diagnosed did not receive any form of treatment.

“We want to ensure that everyone has access to treatment options and quality and affordable healthcare. No one who wants care should have to forgo treatment due to lack of access or cost,” Boucher said.

Learn more about "State of Lung Cancer" at Lung.org/solc. For media interested in speaking with a lung cancer expert about advances in lung cancer and the "State of Lung Cancer" 2020 report or lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact Jennifer Solomon at the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 516-680-8927.

For more information, contact:

Jennifer Solomon
(516) 680-8927
[email protected]

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