Federal researchers indicate that those living in rural areas are more likely to die from cancer than those who live in cities, often succumbing to preventable cancers, which could have been avoided with proper screening and treatment.
In a study published last week in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), researchers indicate that for every 100,000 people, 180 of those living in rural, nonmetropolitan counties die of cancer every year; compared to only about 158 in large urban areas.
A team of researchers from the CDC, led by S. Jane Henley, MSPH of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, performed a comprehensive assessment of cancer incidence and deaths by cancer type in nonmetropolitan and metropolitan to determine whether trends in rates could be found by county classification.
Researchers collected data from the CDC’s National Program of Cancer Registries and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program from 2004 through 2015. They broke down metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas into two subcategories of metropolitan rural and urban, and nonmetropolitan rural and urban.
After analyzing the cancer fatality data, researchers discovered that individuals living in nonmetropolitan rural areas have the highest rate of cancer deaths involving the lung, colon, rectum, prostate, cervix and breast, which compile many of the major fast-acting and aggressive forms of cancer.
Nonmetropolitan rural and urban areas were found to have leading death rates from cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx and kidney, and ranked evenly in cancer rate deaths to other metropolitan areas when looking at cancers of the esophagus, larynx, bladder, melanoma, and leukemia.
Of the forms of cancers found most disproportionately high in nonmetropolitan rural and urban areas, many of the them were related to behavioral factors that increase the risk of cancer, such as cigarette smoking, obesity and alcohol consumption, lack of sleep and lack of physical activity.
The results of the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System indicated adults who live in rural areas, compared to those who live in non-rural areas, had the lowest prevalence of reporting healthy behaviors, with only 27% of individuals indicating they avoided high cancer risk behaviors such as smoking.
One of the largest portions of cancer causing behaviors found in the study was smoking, resulting in lung and laryngeal cancers that can often times be prevented or treated early enough by routine screenings.
In part, the researchers suggest nonmetropolitan rural areas lack medical intervention programs where individuals at increased risk of cancer have the resources readily available to them for early detection.
Researchers suggest increased population-based screening programs and early detection programs be implemented in nonmetropolitan rural and urban areas to allow individuals with or without health insurance more opportunities to detect and prevent cancer fatalities.