The recently published 10-year report of cancer trends in the state by the South Carolina Central Cancer Registry is a benchmark document for health care in the state according to Registry Director Susan Bolick-Aldrich. Aldrich says the report will be the official statistical data resource to be used for any cancer control efforts in the state. It can be used for research, to persuade lawmakers to develop legislation geared toward better prevention and treatment efforts, and to assist grant writers in bringing more money into the state for cancer treatment, research, and prevention. Aldrich says with the decrease in the state of cancer deaths by 18.2 percent from 1996 through 2005. South Carolina is following a national trend of a decrease in cancer deaths since the mid 1990’s. Aldrich says a key to the trend is a greater frequency of early detection.”We’re making progress with increased screening, finding the cancers in a pre-cancerous condition before they turn malignant. Sometimes we’ll see an increase in the incidents of cancer but it is at an early stage due to screening. That is called the screening effect.”
Aldrich says this screening effect is good news because more cancers are being detected at early stages when they are more treatable.
Aldrich points out that the report shows that the state must do more in closing the racial disparities that are indicated by the reports data on survival rates. White women showed the highest survival rates at 55.8 percent followed by white men 50.3 percent, black women 47.1, and black men 44.6 percent. Aldrich says it is interesting to note that the highest rate of increase in the death rate due to lung cancer is among white women. Aldrich says one reason is the growth of the number of women who picked up the smoking habit decades ago.
“That is happening in other states especially in the south because the female peek for smoking came at a later decade than for men. about 20 tears later. We’re still seeing the effects of the high prevalence of smoking among females with the cancers that are showing up now.”
Aldrich says research indicates that there is a higher frequency of breast cancer among white women than black women, however black women get breast cancer at an earlier age and have a higher mortality rate do to the disease than white women.
Aldrich says unfortunately the state ranks in the top 10 for several types of cancer including prostate cancer. “Our men in South Carolina have some the highest rates of prostate cancer in the nation both incidents and mortality especially African-American men. African-American men have almost a three times higher mortality rate due to prostate cancer than white men.”
The report shows that the five leading causes of cancer deaths in the state are lung, colorectal, breast, prostate, and pancreatic.
Aldrich says while the 18 percent decline in the death rate due to cancer over the last decade shows progress increased early detection is only half the battle. Getting the proper treatment in a timely manner to those who need it throughout the state remains a daunting task.
“Getting the proper treatment, that’s one of the things that is of interest now nationwide in looking at outcomes. Whether people are getting the proper treatment within an appropriate time after diagnosis, that’s real key. Access to care is another major concern in our state due to our rural areas.”