Cancer in Minnesota

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Tracking the incidence of all cancer types combined allows examination of trends over time. Although this is useful information, it is important to remember that trends in specific cancers may be very different. The overall rate of all cancer types combined in Minnesota has decreased less than 1% per year on average since 2000. From 2017 to 2019, an average of 16,000 cases of cancer in males and 15,200 cases of cancer in females were diagnosed among Minnesota residents each year. The annual age-adjusted incidence rate for all cancer types combined is higher in males than females. This varies considerably from type to type of cancer.

More about All cancer types combined

Tobacco: the leading single cause of cancer

Tobacco is responsible for 30% of cancer deaths. Important risk factors are diet, obesity, alcohol consumption and a lack of physical activity. Other established risk factors include specific infections, use of certain medications, some occupational exposures, some chemical exposures, radiation, radon, and reproductive and hormonal factors (such as estrogen exposure). Genetics play a strong role in some cancers and may play some role for most cancers.

You can reduce your risk of cancer

Many cancers may be preventable. Not smoking is the single biggest step you can take to reduce your risk of developing cancer. Since different cancers often have different risk factors, prevention strategies for one cancer may not apply to another type. The following prevention strategies reduce the risk of developing or dying from cancer:

  • Healthy behaviors: Avoid tobacco products, maintain a healthy diet and weight, exercise regularly, and avoid excessive sun exposure. These behavioral risk factors are estimated to account for two-thirds of cancer deaths. Avoid exposure to sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), or hepatitis B virus. Some sexually transmitted infections can cause cancer (e.g. cervical or liver cancer).
  • Get screened for cancer: Being screened at the recommended ages and intervals can reduce mortality for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and colorectal cancer by finding cancers early, when treatment is more effective. Screening tests for colorectal and cervical cancer can actually prevent cancer by finding abnormal cells before they become cancerous. Screening for breast cancer will not prevent the cancer, but early detection improves survival.
  • Vaccinations: Hepatitis B virus and HPV vaccines as well as treatment for certain infections are effective prevention measures for specific types of cancers (e.g., liver or cervical cancers).
  • Occupational health and safety: Workplace reduction to known carcinogens especially in some manufacturing situations may play a role in reducing cancer.
  • Radon mitigation: Reducing radon concentrations in the home, if needed, may reduce risk for lung cancer, especially in Minnesota where radon levels tend to be higher than average.

What is being done about cancer?

  • The Minnesota Cancer Reporting System (MCRS) at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has taken the lead in tracking cancer incidence in Minnesota since it was implemented in 1988. MCRS collaborates with the Minnesota Cancer Alliance and the American Cancer Society Midwest Division to produce Minnesota Cancer Facts and Figures every two years.
  • The Minnesota Cancer Alliance is a coalition of more than 100 public and private health organizations, community groups and volunteers founded in 2005. It is supported by the Comprehensive Cancer Control Program at MDH. The Alliance collaborates to develop and implement the statewide cancer control plan, with a focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes that will provide a foundation for long-lasting and sustainable population-wide change.
  • Cancer Plan Minnesota 2025 is a framework for action that invites everyone to get involved in reducing the burden of cancer and promoting health equity. It challenges organizations and individuals in every sector and every region of the state to step up, work together and make a difference for all Minnesotans. Five overarching goals have guided the MN Cancer Alliance since its founding in 2005. They continue to guide the current work and provide an organizing structure for this plan: 1) Prevent cancer from occurring, 2) detect cancer at its earliest stages, 3) treat all cancer patients with the most appropriate and effective therapy, 4) optimize the quality of life for every person affected by cancer, and 5) eliminate disparities in the burden of cancer.
  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) is the nation's leading organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The national ACS report Cancer Facts & Figures provides cancer incidence, mortality and survival statistics for the U.S.
  • The Sage Screening Program at MDH is a statewide comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening program that aims to increase the proportion of eligible women screened for these cancers through free screening, education, raising awareness, and developing statewide partnerships to promote screening.
  • The mission of the Tobacco Prevention and Control Program at MDH is to improve the health of Minnesotans by promoting the reduction of tobacco use.
  • The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) monitors ambient levels of air pollutants, including potential cancer-causing agents(such as benzene). MPCA and MDH both work together to protect human health and the environment from substances released into the air, water, and soil.

Current cancer disparities in Minnesota

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All cancer types combined by sex

The age-adjusted incidence rate of all cancer types combined was 466.7 new cases per 100,000 males and 421.3 new cases per 100,000 females.

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Age-adjusted rate of new cases of all types of cancer, aggregated from 2010 to 2019.

Data sources

  • Cancer incidence data is collected by the Minnesota Cancer Reporting System, an ongoing program at the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota’s central cancer registry.
  • The collection of Minnesota Cancer data was supported by Cooperative Agreement #1NU58DP006337 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The contents of this work are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Cancer rates over time in Minnesota

Cancer type

All cancer types combined over time by year


Cancer rates by county

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All cancer types combined in Minnesota

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Data sources

  • Cancer incidence data is collected by the Minnesota Cancer Reporting System, an ongoing program at the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota’s central cancer registry.
  • The collection of Minnesota Cancer data was supported by Cooperative Agreement #1NU58DP006337 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The contents of this work are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Last updated October 2022.