Officials outline cancer combat strategy

Nov 30 2011 - 7:19am

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has a new plan to prevent and control cancer.

State officials announced their recommendations Tuesday when the Utah Department of Health's Cancer Control Program released its 2011-2015 Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Plan, as well as its 2011 Utah Small Area Report.

"Just because we are a healthy state doesn't mean we don't have to worry about cancer," said Jodie Pond, a health program coordinator for the Utah Cancer Control Program. "There are some things we can do."

The small area report breaks down the state, showing which types of cancer are more common in certain areas.

For example, Davis County residents are below the state average in breast and lung cancer, but above the average in colorectal, prostate and skin cancer.

The Weber-Morgan county area is below the state average in breast, prostate and skin cancer but above in colorectal and lung cancer.

"It helps us better allocate our limited resources in specific areas," said Lynne Nilson, also a health program coordinator for the Utah Cancer Control Program.

"If we know where those areas are, we can do target interventions in those areas and have groups coming together to make things better for those in their areas."

The prevention and control plan calls for Utahns to improve nutrition and physical activity while avoiding tobacco, radon and ultraviolet light.

According to the reports, 2009 saw 91 cancer deaths for every 100,000 Utahns, making cancer the second-leading cause of death in the state behind heart disease.

Each year, more than 8,000 Utahns are diagnosed with cancer and more than 1,900 Utahns die of cancer.

Utah has the nation's lowest cancer death rate and the nation's second-lowest cancer rate.

"I think that's because, typically speaking, Utahns lead a very active lifestyle," Nilson said.

But despite being one of the healthiest states in the country, Utah is the worst state for developing the deadly skin cancer melanoma and is among the states with the highest death rates related to prostate cancer.

In addition, screening rates for breast, cervical and prostate cancer in Utah are below the national average.

Utah also has one of the lowest rates in the country for performing mammograms, which is a huge concern to UDOH.

"Some of most important things to come out of this report are preventive screenings," Nilson said.

The plan also includes having the Utah Cancer Action Network seek legislation requiring tanning salons to distribute information on the dangers of tanning before people undergo tanning sessions.

Utah has a higher rate of skin cancer than the U.S. average.

"We attribute part of that to our elevation and outdoor lifestyle," Pond said.

"But there is an increase (in skin cancer) in young adults, and we attribute that directly to tanning."

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