An updated resource for fighting cancer in North Carolina is now available to citizens and medical professionals through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
The publication, “Reducing the Burden of Cancer in North Carolina: A Data and Resource Guide for Communities to Fight Cancer,” which is available online, details where cancer is most concentrated in North Carolina, which population groups experience the highest burden of cancer, and what public health professionals and partnering agencies can do to reduce the burden of cancer on individuals and their families. Cancer has been the leading cause of death in North Carolina since 2009, when it surpassed heart attack and stroke.
The project was a joint effort between the Division of Public Health’s Cancer Prevention and Control Branch and the North Carolina Advisory Committee on Cancer Coordination and Control.
“The physical, financial and emotional toll of cancer on our residents and their families and on our health care systems can be profound,” said State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer Betsey Tilson, M.D., MPH. “We must do everything that we can to reduce this burden.
Poverty, education, environmental exposures, access to healthy foods and safe outdoor spaces, access to care, transportation, health behaviors and insurance coverage all play in role in the cancer burden for our population,” Tilson added. “Working to address these factors is an important element of improving the health of all our North Carolinians.”

Early detection of cancer works. While breast cancer incidence in North Carolina has risen 10 percent since 1999, breast cancer is being discovered earlier. This has resulted in a 21 percent decrease in deaths from breast cancer in that same period. Lung and colorectal cancer cases have each been on a steady decline, with colorectal cancer incidence dropping by 25 percent since 2002, and lung cancer incidence dropping by 9 percent since 2008. The colorectal cancer death rate has dropped by 33 percent and the lung cancer death rate has dropped by 20 percent since 1999. 

Designed to serve as a companion to the A Call to Action, N.C. Comprehensive Cancer Control 2014-2020 (N.C. Cancer Plan), Reducing the Burden of Cancer in North Carolina provides critical data on six specific cancers prioritized in the N.C. Cancer Plan: female breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, prostate and melanoma skin cancer. The priority cancers were chosen because they are either the most common, or the most preventable forms of cancer. Together, these resources serve as a statewide blueprint for cancer prevention and control work.
This supplement also highlights statewide progress made on each of the six priority cancers over the last two decades, while comparing North Carolina’s status on these cancers to national rates. North Carolina has experienced dramatic declines in the incidence rates of prostate cancer in the last five years, and the mortality rate for lung cancer continues to decline as more people are quitting smoking. However, these declines are not experienced equitably across the state.

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