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Maine’s High Cancer Rate: A Closer Look


Cancer has probably stricken someone in your family or maybe even yourself. The fact is half of men and a third of women will receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetimes. The sad fact is that nearly half of those who do will die from cancer, that’s according to Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health.Maine’s cancer statistics are higher than the national average. Data gathered by federal and state cancer registries show this to be true. The Maine Cancer Registry shows that 8,000 Mainers are diagnosed with one of the more than 100 types of cancer. About 3,100 Mainers die of cancer-related complications every year, that accounts for nearly 1 in 4 of all the deaths in the state. Four types of cancer, lung, breast, prostate and colon make up half of Maine’s cancer diagnosis.

Why does Maine have such a high cancer rate?  Dr. Holly Schwenn, director of the Maine Cancer Registry, tells the Bangor Daily News, ‘age is a possible explanation for the high cancer rate.’ Maine is the oldest state in the country, with a median age of 42.7 years.

Other reasons include smoking, Maine had a 2012 adult smoking rate of 18%. Obesity is another factor, Maine had a 2012 obesity rate of 28%. Low cancer screening rates, lower levels of education, high rates of poverty and unemployment, and lack of health insurance are also factors in Maine’s high cancer rate, especially Washington County.

2012 cancer statistics are not yet available. However, the American Cancer Society estimates that Maine will record an estimated 9,000 new cases of cancer.


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