State’s cancer mortality rate falls

DOVER — Delaware’s mortality rate for all cancers declined 10% between the five-year periods of 2002-06 and 2012-16, with specific declines for Black men and women and Hispanic women.

Additionally, mortality rates decreased for female breast cancer, as well as colorectal, lung and prostate cancers, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Delaware ranked 15th highest in the country for all-site cancer mortality for 2012-16, down from 18 for 2011-15. The First State’s mortality rate for that period was 174 deaths per 100,000 people, 8% higher than the national average.

Males here were more likely to die from cancer than women were.

“After years of work, the data reflects our efforts to have more Delawareans get important cancer screenings,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “We know that the earlier cancer is detected, the more treatable it is. In addition to screenings, I urge everyone to make healthier lifestyle choices, as smoking, vaping, and being overweight or obese, are among our greatest risks for developing cancer.”

Delaware was second nationally in all-site cancer incidence, with 491.5 cases per 100,000 people for 2012-16. The national rate was 435.1 per 100,000.

The Division of Public Health said part of the reason for the high rank is the state’s thorough screening process. The agency noted that the current pandemic could drive that rate up in future reports.

“Many people had to delay getting cancer screenings due to COVID-19, so it’s possible that some people’s cancers are not being caught as early as they otherwise might be,” DPH Director Karyl Rattay said in a statement.

“I strongly encourage Delawareans to make their appointments now to get caught up on recommended screenings. We’ve made it easy to find and schedule cancer screening appointments with a phone call or a few clicks at HealthyDelaware.org.”

All-site cancer mortality dropped 29% among non-Hispanic Black males and 16% among non-Hispanic White males but increased 19% in Hispanic males between 2002-06 and 2012-16. Among females, mortality rates fell 13% for non-Hispanic Black Delawareans, 11% among non-Hispanic White residents and 4% among Hispanics.

To encourage women to get screened for breast cancer, DPH’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Program worked with the Delaware Cancer Consortium and community leaders, reaching out to minorities through their providers, hairstylists, churches and other organizations.

Seventy-nine percent of Delaware women at least 40 years old reported getting a mammogram in the past two years, the third highest mark in the nation.

“We are working diligently to reduce the health disparities faced by many of our communities of color,” Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik said in a statement. “By focusing on the important role of screening and prevention along with population health, I’m confident that we will see greater improvement in achieving health equity for all Delawareans.”

The full cancer report is available at bit.ly/3iQ0xkv.

For more information about DPH’s cancer-prevention and treatment work, visit dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/cancer.html or call the Delaware Comprehensive Cancer Control Program at 744-1020. For more information about the DCC, including its recommendations, visit healthydelaware.org/consortium. To learn how to prevent, detect and treat chronic diseases, visit the Healthy Delaware website at healthydelaware.org.

Delaware’s cancer survivors can access insurance and cancer-treatment needs from the Health Care Connection at dhss.delaware.gov/dph/dpc/chap.html or by calling 211. They can also see Delaware’s Cancer Treatment Program at dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/catreatment.html or by calling (844) 245-9580.

The Screening for Life program (dhss.delaware.gov/dph/dpc/sfl.html) provides payment for cancer screening tests to qualified Delaware adults. Eligible individuals can receive office visits, mammograms and clinical breast exams, Pap tests and/or screening tests for prostate, colorectal and lung cancer when recommended by a doctor, as well as lung cancer screening tests.