Report: Delaware reduced cancer mortality rates over last decade, ‘shift’ to reduce incidence needed

The first state’s cancer mortality rate decreased 12 percent due to state-wide screening efforts and early detection, according to a new Division of Public Health (DPH) report. The state's rate still remains below the 14 percent national average.

"Delaware is making great progress in battling the deadly disease of cancer in our state," said Governor John Carney in a Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) statement. "This report shows our successes, but also shows us we have more work to do, particularly when it comes to reducing cancer incidence."

DPH presented its report to the Delaware Cancer Consortium (DCC) after a July 9 meeting in the state’s capital. The report included data for all cancer sites, 23 site-specific cancer types, risk factors, early detection and screening recommendations, and a census tract map.

All told, Delaware ranked 16th nationally for all-site cancer mortality—its same spot from last year’s report—but considerably improved having the second highest rates in the 1990s, according to the statement.

The all-site cancer mortality rate dropped 15 percent among men and 9 percent in women over the last 10 years. Below are further findings from the past decade:

  • 21 percent drop among African Americans
  • 14 percent drop among Caucasians
  • 2 percent drop among Hispanics

When examining cancer incidence, the report found Delaware’s incidence rate was 14 percent higher than the comparable U.S. rate, and ranked second among states in all-site cancer incidence.

A supplementary report—Disparities in Cancer Incidence and Mortality Among Delaware Residents, 2010-2014—was released July 9, which found Hispanics have “statistically significantly” lower incidence rates for all-site cancer compared to white and black populations.

Of particular concern, according to the statement, is lung cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed form of the disease in Delaware and the nation. A total of 14 percent of newly diagnosed cancer cases included lung cancer and accounted for 30 percent of all cancer deaths during the study period.

To address these rates, the DPH Comprehensive Cancer Control program plans to focus its outreach on educating residents and providers on the importance of lung cancer screening in high-risk populations. The organization will also partner with the DPH Tobacco Prevention and Control program.

"While we continue to make progress in screening more Delawareans and detecting cancer earlier, it's time for us to make a shift in our approach to reducing cancer incidence and mortality," said DPH Director Karyl Rattay, MD, in the statement. "We know that if we really want to move the needle in this area, we need to increase our focus on prevention, screening, and addressing upstream issues such as tackling lifestyle factors that contribute to cancer risk such as obesity and lack of physical activity."

View and download both reports here.