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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in Minnesota
In Minnesota, lung cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosis and is the leading cause of cancer mortality. Lung cancer kills more than twice as many men as prostate cancer and more than twice as many women as breast cancer in Minnesota.
In Minnesota, there is considerable regional variation in lung cancer rates, especially among females. The highest rates are found in the Northeast, Northwest, and the Central regions of the state. Smoking prevalence varies dramatically by education level. About 27% of adults in Minnesota without a high school education currently smoke, compared to only 5% among college graduates.
From 2015 to 2017, an average of 1,866 males and 1,874females in Minnesota were diagnosed with lung cancer each year and about two thirds as many died from the disease: 1,230 males and 1,165 females. Dramatic differences in incidence rates exist among race and ethnicity within Minnesota.
Lung & bronchus cancer in Minnesota
Since 2003, the incidence rate of lung & bronchus cancer in males has decreased by 1.7% per year. In contrast, the incidence rate of lung & bronchus cancer in females increased by 2.3% per year between 1988 and 2002. Since 2003, female rates have increased by only 0.25% per year. This difference between males and females likely reflects smoking patterns over time - women started smoking later in the last century than men. Most recently, the age-adjusted incidence rate of lung & bronchus cancer was 58.0 new cases per 100,000 males and 50.5 new cases per 100,000 females.
Lung & bronchus cancer in Minnesota, by race/ethnicity
A large difference in lung cancer incidence exists among different race/ethnicity categories in Minnesota. Over the last 10 years, the rate of lung cancer was highest among American Indians (about 130 new cases of lung cancer per 100,000 American Indians) and lowest among Asian/Pacific Islanders (about 24 new cases of lung cancer per 100,000 Asian/Pacific Islanders).
Lung & bronchus cancer in Minnesota, by age
The rate of lung cancer increases with age in each sex. The highest rate of lung cancer is among males aged 70-84 years.
Lung cancer forms in lung tissue, usually in the cells lining the air passages. This cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. More people die from lung cancer than from breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined in the United States and in Minnesota.
What are the risk factors for lung cancer?
- Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Approximately 90% of lung cancers in males and 80% in females are caused by smoking, and it increases risk for many other cancers as well.
- Radon, a common indoor pollutant and second leading cause of lung cancer, enters the home from the surrounding soil. About one in three Minnesota homes have enough radon to pose a risk to the occupants' health over many years of exposure.
- Environmental tobacco smoke, also known as secondhand smoke, is a known human carcinogen. According to the CDC and EPA, it is the third leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking and exposure to radon.
- Occupational exposures to known and probable carcinogens (e.g., occupations with exposure to arsenic, asbestos, beryllium, cadmium, or radon) account for a small but significant number of lung cancers.
- Other risk factors: Exposure to arsenic, asbestos, and diesel exhaust are other risk factors. Air pollution may cause a small increase in lung cancer.
Because the overwhelming majority of lung cancer cases are caused by smoking, it is difficult to assess other environmental causes of lung cancer, even those causes that are well established.
How can lung cancer be prevented?
- Avoid smoking and environmental tobacco smoke (also known as secondhand smoke). Policies such as increased tobacco tax and smoking bans have been effective in reducing the prevalence of smoking.
- Radon mitigation (if needed) and workplace safety (where lung carcinogens exist) can also reduce risk.
- Increasing fruit and vegetable intake is a good idea for many health reasons, although evidence supporting this prevention strategy for lung cancer is unclear.
Last updated May 2020. Updates are made when data become available.