While it is no surprise that cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., it is shocking to learn how high one state from the tristate area ranks in the overall cancer mortality rates. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky tops the list as the state with the highest number of cancer cases and deaths.

From the most recent data compiled in 2020, the CDC reports Kentucky to have 503.4 new cancer cases per every 100,000 people. Additionally, there 181.8 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest compared to the rest of the country.

Already in 2022, the American Cancer Society is estimating 30,370 new cases with 9,740 deaths.


So why is the Bluegrass State experiencing such high numbers of cancer cases?

When broken down into types of cancers, Lung, Breast, and Prostate Cancer account for majority of new cases. However, the most alarming statistic is that lung cancer is the most prevalent in cancer-related deaths, the highest in the country.

Considering the shocking number of deaths related to lung cancer, it is no coincidence that Kentucky also ranks as the state with the second highest adult smoking rate at 23.6%.

As reported by Cancer.org, the American Cancer Society says,

“About 80% of lung cancers, as well as about 80% of all lung cancer deaths, are due to smoking.”


What is Kentucky doing to combat cancer-related deaths?

To combat these numbers, local medical professionals are pushing for early detection to increase the effectiveness of cancer prevention methods and treatments.

"The hope is that we identify people when they're stage one, for any cancer, but especially for lung cancer," University of Louisville Health thoracic surgeon Dr. Victor van Berkel said. "If you get into later stages, stage three or stage four lung cancer, then really the only effective treatment is chemotherapy, and that's hard on people, but also the success rates are a lot lower."

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Kentuck's Cancer Action Plan

To further local prevention and control efforts, the Kentucky Cancer Consortium released their Cancer Action Plan, which details specific goals aimed at tackling the rising cancer rates. These goals, which target prevention, early detection, treatments, and quality of life, include:

Goal 1: Reduce the incidence and mortality rates of tobacco-related cancers in all populations.

Goal 2: Reduce the incidence of cancers related to nutrition, physical activity and obesity.

Goal 3: Reduce the incidence and mortality rates of cancers related to environmental carcinogens, with a focus on radon.

Goal 4: Reduce incidence of HPV-related cancers by increasing initiation and completion of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series.

Goal 5: Reduce the proportion of late-stage diagnosis and mortality from breast cancer through screening and early detection.

Goal 6: Reduce the incidence and mortality rates of cervical cancer through increased screening and early detection.

Goal 7: Reduce the incidence and mortality rates of colon cancer through prevention and early detection.

Goal 8: Reduce lung cancer mortality and increase detection through screening for those Kentuckians who meet the eligibility criteria as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Goal 9: Promote access to and appropriate utilization of quality cancer diagnostic and treatment services for all Kentuckians.

Goal 10: Promote overall health of Kentucky cancer survivors from diagnosis onward, to increase quality of life.

Cancer Prevention and Smoking Cessation in KY

For more information on cancer prevention resources, you can visit https://www.kcp.uky.edu/resources/state/. For Kentuckians who are interested in quitting smoking, the Kentucky Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program offers many resources including the helpline Quit Now Kentucky (800) QUIT-NOW.

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