Maryland 2nd in nation in rate of cancer deaths

February 01, 1994|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,National Center for Health StatisticsSun Staff Writer

Maryland has retained its distinction as the state with the second-highest cancer death rate in the nation, trailing neighboring Delaware by a slim margin.

The mid-Atlantic region's hold on cancer death is particularly striking when Washington is added to the picture. There, 230 out of every 100,000 inhabitants die of cancer each year, a rate exceeding that of any state.

Maryland's other neighbors -- Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia -- also have cancer death rates among the top 10.

Statistics comparing cancer deaths rates across the United States appear in Cancer Facts & Figures-1994, released yesterday by the National Cancer Society. The figures

were drawn from the National Center for Health Statistics, a federal agency.

This is the second consecutive year Maryland has ranked second, and for several years it was first in deaths from cancer.

Dr. Joseph Aisner, an oncologist with the University of Maryland Medical Center, said yesterday that it remains unclear why people in the Middle Atlantic states suffer disproportionately from cancer.

"The problem we have is that most cancers we have are the harvest of what we did to ourselves and to the environment not today but 20 years ago," said Dr. Aisner, a member of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's cancer control commission.

"Trying to get epidemiologic links is tough because you are always looking backwards through the looking glass."

He explained that many carcinogens, such as tobacco smoke and environmental pollutants, can take decades to trigger detectable cancers.

This makes it hard to determine what distinguishes Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., from other parts of the country.

The latest rates are the average annual death rates for the period 1986 through 1990.

Last year, Delaware and Maryland held the same rankings when the Cancer Society considered the period 1985 through 1989. Delaware's rate was 195 cancer deaths per 100,000; Maryland's, 194 per 100,000.

This year, Delaware's rate was unchanged, while Maryland's declined almost imperceptibly to 193. Meanwhile, the District of Columbia's rose from 228 to 230 per 100,000.

For several years, Maryland ranked first among the states, prompting Mr. Schaefer to form the commission on cancer control.

To lower the death rate, the state has mounted an educational campaign encouraging residents not to smoke and women to get regular mammograms and Pap smears. Both can detect developing cancers.


These states had the highest cancer death rates during a five-year period from 1986 through 1990. Rates are the annual number of cancer deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants. The District of Columbia is shown but not ranked.

District of Columbia 230

1. Delaware 195

2. Maryland 193

3. Louisiana 190

4. Kentucky 188

5. New Jersey 185

6. Nevada 184

Maine 184

8. Ohio 181

Rhode Island 181

10. Pennsylvania 180

Virginia 180

West Virginia 180

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