The Burden of Cancer chapter is reprinted with permission from the Connecticut State Medical Society, publisher of Connecticut Medicine. A more comprehensive version of this chapter was published in the June/July 2012 issue. (76(6):335-351.) The authors of the Connecticut Medicine article are Brenda Cartmel, PhD, Lou Gonsalves, PhD and Lloyd Mueller, PhD. The article has been modified and updated for this publication by Brenda Cartmel, Lou Gonsalves and Lucinda Hogarty.
It has been estimated that one in two men and one in three women in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime (1). In Connecticut, as in the nation, cancer is the second leading cause of death. Cancer risk increases with age and in a state where the proportion of residents aged 65 years and older is expected to reach more than 20 percent by 2030,(2) cancer poses a significant burden on the state’s residents and resources. In terms of financial cost, it is projected that by 2020 national costs for cancer care will exceed $158 billion (in 2010 dollars). (3)
Almost 20,000 new cancers were diagnosed in Connecticut residents in 2010; the four most commonly diagnosed cancers – breast, prostate, lung and colorectal – accounted for more than half of these diagnoses and just under half of all cancer deaths.
Newly diagnosed cancers (a) and cancer deaths (b) in Connecticut in 2010.
Many of these cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes to minimize risk factors or can be detected early through screening when treatment is more effective. Despite the substantial mortality and morbidity burden still imposed by these four cancer groups, there have been significant and welcome declines in death rates reported for all four. Between 1990 and 2008 these four sites accounted for 78 percent of the decline in U.S. male cancer mortality reported for all cancers, while breast and colorectal death rates among U.S. women accounted for 56 percent of the overall decline. (4)
Cancer affects some populations disproportionately; this disparity is one of the fundamental drivers for this Plan. In particular a person’s gender, race, ethnicity and other socio-demographic factors have a major impact on their risk of developing or dying from cancer. We explore these cancer disparities in the Connecticut population for the four most common cancers focusing on incidence, mortality and relative survival, as well as trends over the past three decades.