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American Lung Association in New York releases fourth annual State of Lung Cancer report

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.
American Lung Association
November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Lung Association's fourth annual “State of Lung Cancer” report, released today, finds Black New Yorkers are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer.

The report highlights how the toll of lung cancer varies by state and examines key indicators throughout the country including: new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates, and as the disproportionate impact of lung cancer on communities of color.

It finds New York ranks in the top five states for 5-year survival, early diagnosis and surgical treatment, but the state's Black people are 22% less likely to be diagnosed early than whites, a window in time when lung cancer is most treatable. Trevor Summerfield is ALA's Director of Advocacy for New York state, Massachusetts and Vermont.

"There's no real simple answer, like an A leads to B, or X to Y. But the ongoing effects of systemic racism, inequities and segregation play a role in health disparities overall, and that includes Black Americans in New York state," Summerfield said. "These historical inequalities contribute to poor living conditions, including tobacco use, exposure to air pollution, violence, stress, the shortage of primary care physicians, in historically underrepresented communities, and lack of access to affordable, quality health care and nutrition. And sadly, as the 2021 State of Lung Cancer illustrates, these disparities result in poorer patient outcomes for racial and ethnic groups across the board. But we obviously see that in the 22% discrepancy in New York State among Black Americans, as opposed to white."

The national lung cancer survival rate is 20% for communities of color and 18% for Black people.

Summerfield emphasizes that early diagnosis is the most important thing when it comes to lung cancer, and New York ranks 26th among all states for the disease.

"Were third in the nation for survival at 28.1%. New York is fourth in the nation for early diagnosis, 29th in the nation for lung cancer screening at 6.2%," said Summerfield. "Second in the nation for surgery at 28.5%. And that goes in line with early diagnosis as well, I think that should be noted in New York State in particular, the earlier you can diagnose it, the better the options are for surgical removal. 28th in the nation, for lack of treatment."

Summerfield says over the last five years, the survival rate in New York improved by 14%; the rate of new cases improved by 3% and the early diagnosis rate in New York improved by 39%.

Summerfield adds the New England states are trending along similar lines.

"If you look at the communities where people are suffering from lung cancer," said Summerfield, "there's a pretty direct correlation between the inequities they face, poverty, pollution, whatever the case may be, but there definitely, there are correlations to be made, not just in, in New England and in New York, but across the country."

Massachusetts ranks 29th among all states. Its rate of new lung cancer cases is 61 per 100,000, higher than the national rate of 58.

No racial disparities were found in Vermont, which ranks 28th and also has a 61 per 100,000 new cases rate.

In 24th-ranked Connecticut, the report found Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders are least likely to be diagnosed early. Its rate of new lung cancer cases matches the national rate of 58 per 100,000.

ALA's report finds Kentucky has the highest incidence rate of lung cancer in the United States. Neighboring West Virginia ranks the worst in the nation for smoking.

Here's a link to the findings.

American Lung Association

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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