Lung Association Report: Finds West Virginia Worst State for Smoking in the Nation And Among the Worst States for New Lung Cancer Cases and Screening

“State of Lung Cancer” report examines toll of lung cancer in West Virginia, identifies opportunities to save lives

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 West Virginia ranks the worst in nation for smoking, and among the worst for lung cancer new case incidence rate and screening.  

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.  

“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 Molly Pisciottano, Director of Advocacy, American Lung Association. “Much more can and must be done in West Virginia to prevent the disease and support those facing the disease, like including ensuring everyone who is at high risk is screened for lung cancer; making sure everyone has access to quality and affordable healthcare; protecting and expanding smokefree laws and ensuring significant funding for proven prevention and quit smoking programs.”

The report found that West Virginia ranked:
•    50 out of 51 in the nation for lung cancer incidence at 79.3 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.
•    40 in the nation for survival at 20.1%. The national average of people alive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis is 23.7%. West Virginia ranks in the bottom of the nation (40 out of 45) but has seen a 15% improvement over the past five years.
•    18 in the nation for early diagnosis at 25%. Nationally, only 24.5% of cases are diagnosed at an early stage when the five-year survival rate is much higher.
•    37 in the nation for lung cancer screening which is below average at 4%. 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.
•    24 in the nation for surgery at 19.4%. 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.
•    34 in the nation for lack of treatment at 22.3% (while average, this is a 28% improvement over past five years). Nationally, 21.1% of cases receive no treatment.
•    Bottom in the nation, ranking 50 of 50 states measured for smoking at 23.8%, (percent of adults who are current smokers in the state).

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. 

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" 2021 report or lung cancer survivor about their experience, contact Val Gleason at the American Lung Association at [email protected] 717-971-1123.

For more information, contact:

Valerie Gleason
717-971-1123
[email protected]

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