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Reducing Cancer Burden in New York City

“You have cancer” may be the most difficult words anyone can hear. Unfortunately, nationwide approximately 40 out of 100 men and 38 out of 100 women will develop cancer during their lifetime according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures 2018. Eighty-seven percent of all cancers in the United States are diagnosed in people 50 years of age or older. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States after heart disease. The impact that cancer has on New York City is enormous. Every week, on average, approximately 771 New York City residents were diagnosed with cancer and 241 individuals died from the disease between 2011- 2015 according to the New York State Cancer Registry. The number of people diagnosed with cancer annually from 2011-2015 on average was nearly twice the capacity of Madison Square Garden.

However, the public fight against cancer often lacks focus and not enough attention is paid to many of the leading causes of cancer. While the lifesaving work of New York’s incredible cancer centers are well known, many of the most important decisions made in the fight against cancer are made in the halls of city government.

This report takes an in-depth look at the state of cancer in New York City. Reducing the Cancer Burden in New York City examines public data and identifies trends to inform policymakers on how to reduce the number of new cases of cancer, increase access to quality cancer treatment, reduce disparities and enhance the quality of life for those suffering from the disease. Reducing the Cancer Burden in New York City reviews the state of cancer in the city.

The report’s findings, which analyzed data from 2011-2015, include these facts:

  • On average, approximately 40,126 New York City residents were diagnosed with cancer each year between 2011-2015, with 12,453 dying from the disease annually during this period.
  • Four cancers—lung, prostate, breast and colorectal—accounted for nearly half of all cancer diagnoses and nearly half of all cancer deaths.
  • Lung cancer was the single largest cause of cancer death, causing nearly 2,668 deaths yearly from 2011-2015. Colorectal (1,240), breast (1,027), and pancreatic (933) cancers were the second, third and fourth most frequent causes of mortality.
  • Breast cancer was New York City’s most commonly diagnosed cancer among women, and prostate cancer was the most common among men.
  • Lung cancer was New York City’s most common cause of cancer death across genders.
  • Women in Manhattan had the highest rates of breast cancer, and men in the Bronx had the highest rates of prostate cancer.
  • Blacks had the highest cancer death rate, 167 cancer deaths per 100,000 males and females, of all cancers on average.
  • About 30 percent of all cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking.
  • The combined effects of excess body weight, poor diet, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity are associated with 18 percent of all cancer cases.

Cancer is a complex group of diseases with many causes. More than half of all cancer deaths can be prevented by fully leveraging the knowledge, tools and medical breakthroughs that exist. Providing everyone with the opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle and access cancer screenings—like mammograms and colonoscopies—and vaccinations could save thousands of lives every year.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene coordinates a citywide effort to increase cancer screening for uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers. For breast, colorectal, cervical and prostate cancers over the past 15 years, that effort has seen historic increases in colorectal cancer screening rates and declines in racial disparities among New York City. Yet many New Yorkers are lacking access to potentially lifesaving cancer screening. Barriers to screening include lack of transportation to and from appointments, time off for screening, cost and insurance coverage. Many of these barriers could be addressed with public and private support.

Additionally, a substantial proportion of cancers could be prevented. Aside from not smoking, maintaining a healthy body weight, being physically active on a regular basis, eating a healthy diet, and limiting alcohol consumption are the most important ways to reduce cancer risk.

Adapted from American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network 


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