States with the highest cancer rates

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As People Live Longer, Cancer Rates Increase

Cancer is the second-most common cause of death in America (behind heart disease), but public opinion still ranks health care of lower importance than issues like national security and terrorism.

Americans pegged health care as the sixth most important issue in a recent Gallup survey, even as the National Center for Health Statistics reported 584,881 cancer deaths in 2014 alone.

Contrast this with findings from the Global Terrorism Database, which estimated the number of fatalities among U.S. citizens the same year. The grand total: 32.

Cancer might not grab headlines like an ISIS attack, but it remains a legitimate epidemic for both the nation and the world. It's also less tied to genetics than many believe. According to the National Cancer Institute, only about 5 to 10 percent of cases are inherited. Most people are much more likely to develop a cancerous gene mutation from activities they control, like smoking, lack of exercise and bad eating habits.

In order to better understand cancer incidence rates across the United States, data site HealthGrove turned to the the National Cancer Institute to rank the cancer rates across the 50 states. For each state, the figures are age-adjusted to control for disproportionately older states (like Florida) and younger states (like Utah). The numbers come from 2012, the latest full data available.

According to the NCI, the top four types of cancer in the United States are breast, lung, prostate and colon cancer, respectively. Collectively, they account for more than 750,000 new cases per year.

Outside of two notable exceptions in the South, the Northeast is home to the highest cancer rates in the nation. Researchers remain unsure why states like New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island exhibit higher rates of cancer than most of the United States.

Some studies are attempting to investigate various possible factors, such as socioeconomic status, sun exposure, ethnicity or geography-specific lifestyle factors (ex: smoking and drinking), but with so many variables, it's difficult to pinpoint a cause.

Keep in mind that the states with the highest incidence rate (new cases) don't always have the highest mortality rates (cancer-related deaths). For example, Connecticut has one of the highest cancer incidence rates in the nation (7th most in the nation), but one of the lowest cancer-related mortality rates (42nd). Meanwhile, Oklahoma is just the opposite: fewer new cancer cases (31st), but many more cancer-related deaths per 100K people (5th most).

Could Oklahoma have a health care problem? Oklahoma does have the fewest doctors per 100K people in the nation (only 63.5), while Connecticut has the 6th most (122.4). It's an interesting discrepancy, but it doesn't necessarily explain the phenomenon. For each state, we'll note these same statistics, but keep in mind these figures are only a small piece of a much larger health care puzzle.

While we've ranked the list by rate of cancer incidence, we'll provide an interactive visualization of cancer mortality on each state's slide. Finally, we'll close with a heat map of cancer mortality across the nation.

#50. New Mexico

Incidence Rate per 100K: 365.4

Mortality Rate* per 100K: 148
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 47th
Doctor Population per 100K: 88.2
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 29th

*Note that "mortality rate" refers to the number of people who die of cancer-related causes per 100K people in the state.

#49. Arizona

Incidence Rate per 100K: 367.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 148.3
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 46th
Doctor Population per 100K: 73.7
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 45th

#48. Wyoming

Incidence Rate per 100K: 388.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 154.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 40th
Doctor Population per 100K: 76.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 43rd

#47. Alaska

Incidence Rate per 100K: 395.4

Mortality Rate per 100K: 169
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 21st
Doctor Population per 100K: 89.8
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 28th

#46. Utah

Incidence Rate per 100K: 396.8

Mortality Rate per 100K: 128.7
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 50th
Doctor Population per 100K: 69.3
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 46th

#45. Texas

Incidence Rate per 100K: 397.9

Mortality Rate per 100K: 160.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 35th
Doctor Population per 100K: 76.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 44th

#44. Virginia

Incidence Rate per 100K: 398

Mortality Rate per 100K: 165.3
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 28th
Doctor Population per 100K: 93.7
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 21st

#43. Colorado

Incidence Rate per 100K: 398.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 143.7
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 48th
Doctor Population per 100K: 90.5
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 27th

#42. California

Incidence Rate per 100K: 403.7

Mortality Rate per 100K: 151
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 44th
Doctor Population per 100K: 106.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 10th

#41. Florida

Incidence Rate per 100K: 406

Mortality Rate per 100K: 157.8
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 38th
Doctor Population per 100K: 92.4
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 24th

#40. Hawaii

Incidence Rate per 100K: 406.9

Mortality Rate per 100K: 134.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 49th
Doctor Population per 100K: 106.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 12th

#39. Oregon

Incidence Rate per 100K: 416.4

Mortality Rate per 100K: 168.3
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 22nd
Doctor Population per 100K: 103.5
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 14th

#38. Montana

Incidence Rate per 100K: 423.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 154.2
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 41st
Doctor Population per 100K: 80.4
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 36th

#37. Maryland

Incidence Rate per 100K: 425.2

Mortality Rate per 100K: 166
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 27th
Doctor Population per 100K: 117.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 7th

#36. Nebraska

Incidence Rate per 100K: 425.7

Mortality Rate per 100K: 164.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 30th
Doctor Population per 100K: 93.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 20th

#35. South Dakota

Incidence Rate per 100K: 426.6

Mortality Rate per 100K: 162
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 33rd
Doctor Population per 100K: 87
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 30th

#34. Idaho

Incidence Rate per 100K: 429.8

Mortality Rate per 100K: 152
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 43rd
Doctor Population per 100K: 65.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 48th

#33. Indiana

Incidence Rate per 100K: 432.1

Mortality Rate per 100K: 184.2
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 9th
Doctor Population per 100K: 78.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 40th

#32. Ohio

Incidence Rate per 100K: 433

Mortality Rate per 100K: 182.1
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 10th
Doctor Population per 100K: 91.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 25th

#31. Oklahoma

Incidence Rate per 100K: 433.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 189.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 5th
Doctor Population per 100K: 63.5
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 50th

#30. Arkansas

Incidence Rate per 100K: 435.8

Mortality Rate per 100K: 188.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 6th
Doctor Population per 100K: 78.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 41st

#29. North Carolina

Incidence Rate per 100K: 436.9

Mortality Rate per 100K: 170.5
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 19th
Doctor Population per 100K: 86.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 31st

#28. Michigan

Incidence Rate per 100K: 437.2

Mortality Rate per 100K: 174.3
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 18th
Doctor Population per 100K: 92.5
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 23rd

#27. Wisconsin

Incidence Rate per 100K: 437.7

Mortality Rate per 100K: 166.1
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 26th
Doctor Population per 100K: 96.4
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 16th

#26. South Carolina

Incidence Rate per 100K: 441.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 179
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 12th
Doctor Population per 100K: 83.3
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 32nd

#25. North Dakota

Incidence Rate per 100K: 441.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 150.7
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 45th
Doctor Population per 100K: 95.8
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 18th

#24. Vermont

Incidence Rate per 100K: 442

Mortality Rate per 100K: 164.8
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 29th
Doctor Population per 100K: 135.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 3rd

#23. Missouri

Incidence Rate per 100K: 443.6

Mortality Rate per 100K: 182
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 11th
Doctor Population per 100K: 80.4
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 36th

#22. Alabama

Incidence Rate per 100K: 446.4

Mortality Rate per 100K: 184.8
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 8th
Doctor Population per 100K: 79.3
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 39th

#21. Washington

Incidence Rate per 100K: 450.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 161.8
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 34th
Doctor Population per 100K: 96
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 17th

#20. Georgia

Incidence Rate per 100K: 451.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 169.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 20th
Doctor Population per 100K: 80.8
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 35th

#19. Mississippi

Incidence Rate per 100K: 451.6

Mortality Rate per 100K: 200
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 2nd
Doctor Population per 100K: 63.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 49th

#18. Kansas

Incidence Rate per 100K: 451.8

Mortality Rate per 100K: 167.7
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 24th
Doctor Population per 100K: 81.3
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 34th

#16. Tennessee (tie)

Incidence Rate per 100K: 452.6

Mortality Rate per 100K: 187.9
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 7th
Doctor Population per 100K: 91.3
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 26th

#16. Illinois (tie)

Incidence Rate per 100K: 452.6

Mortality Rate per 100K: 175.5
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 16th
Doctor Population per 100K: 110.8
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 8th

#15. Minnesota

Incidence Rate per 100K: 453.9

Mortality Rate per 100K: 155.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 39th
Doctor Population per 100K: 109.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 9th

#14. Iowa

Incidence Rate per 100K: 454.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 167.9
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 23rd
Doctor Population per 100K: 66.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 47th

#13. Massachusetts

Incidence Rate per 100K: 455.7

Mortality Rate per 100K: 163.3
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 32nd
Doctor Population per 100K: 136.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 2nd

#12. West Virginia

Incidence Rate per 100K: 456.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 191.1
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 3rd
Doctor Population per 100K: 82.7
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 33rd

#11. Maine

Incidence Rate per 100K: 465.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 179
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 12th
Doctor Population per 100K: 101.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 15th

#10. New York

Incidence Rate per 100K: 465.9

Mortality Rate per 100K: 159.5
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 37th
Doctor Population per 100K: 123.1
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 5th

#9. New Hampshire

Incidence Rate per 100K: 466.5

Mortality Rate per 100K: 167.7
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 24th
Doctor Population per 100K: 103.8
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 13th

#8. Pennsylvania

Incidence Rate per 100K: 467.3

Mortality Rate per 100K: 174.8
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 17th
Doctor Population per 100K: 92.7
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 22nd

#6. Connecticut (tie)

Incidence Rate per 100K: 469

Mortality Rate per 100K: 152
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 42nd
Doctor Population per 100K: 122.4
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 6th

#6. New Jersey (tie)

Incidence Rate per 100K: 469

Mortality Rate per 100K: 160.3
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 36th
Doctor Population per 100K: 106.7
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 11th

#5. District of Columbia

Incidence Rate per 100K: 471.8

Mortality Rate per 100K: 178.4
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 14th
Doctor Population per 100K: 198.6
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 1st

#4. Delaware

Incidence Rate per 100K: 473.7

Mortality Rate per 100K: 176.1
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 15th
Doctor Population per 100K: 79.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 38th

#3. Louisiana

Incidence Rate per 100K: 475.4

Mortality Rate per 100K: 190.5
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 4th
Doctor Population per 100K: 93.9
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 19th

#2. Rhode Island

Incidence Rate per 100K: 478

Mortality Rate per 100K: 163.6
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 31st
Doctor Population per 100K: 126.8
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 4th

#1. Kentucky

Incidence Rate per 100K: 505.2

Mortality Rate per 100K: 201.2
Mortality Rank in U.S.: 1st
Doctor Population per 100K: 78.1
Doctor Population Rank in U.S.: 42nd

Cancer Mortality Across the Country

See Facts and Visualizations for Hundreds of Conditions on HealthGrove

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