Cancer in the U.S.: 15 States With the Highest Rates of Diagnoses

cancer patient

A patient receives chemotherapy treatment at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina. | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

If you live in the United States, chances are someone you know has been diagnosed with cancer. In 2017, the American Cancer Society predicts there will be just under 1.7 million new cases of the disease and 600,920 deaths from some type of cancer across the nation.

In both men and women, there is expected to be the highest rate of new breast cancer diagnoses. Lung and bronchus, prostate, colorectum, melanoma of the skin, and urinary bladder cancers are the other most common types predicted by the American Cancer Society. Lung and bronchus cancer is predicted to be the most fatal in 2017, followed by colorectum and pancreatic cancers.

According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 8.7% of American adults have been diagnosed with some form of cancer. However, some states have a much higher rate of diagnosis than others. The CDC collects data on all cancer diagnoses in the country and organizes them by state. The national average is 439 diagnoses for every 100,000 people living in the U.S.

Some states have a much lower diagnosis rate. New Mexico had the lowest rate in the country from the CDC’s most recent data, at 363.7 diagnoses per 100,000 people. Arizona’s rate was 370.6, and Wyoming’s rate was 382 — the next two lowest rates nationwide. But as we’ll see on the following pages, the rates of diagnoses for the states on the other end of the spectrum are all significantly higher than the national average, with the two worst states having rates over 500 diagnoses per 100,000 people.

Let’s take a quick look at the 15 states with the most cancer diagnoses per 100,000 people. Do you live in one of these states?

15. Illinois

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 454.9

The bustling, populous, Midwestern state of Illinois evidently has an issue with carcinogens. It’s not the only state in the region struggling with issues related to cancer diagnoses, but it does have more — 454.9 per 100,000 — than its neighboring states of Wisconsin and Indiana.

Next: This state has seen a jump in liver cancer.

14. Iowa

Senior woman in hospital

A senior woman lies in a hospital ward. | iStock.com/shironosov

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 456.1

Iowa beats out Illinois in the CDC’s rankings. In Iowa, 456.1 out of every 100,000 people receive a diagnosis. Like all other states, people living in Iowa suffer from cancers of all types. But most recently, officials have become alarmed specifically about a jump in liver cancers.

13. Massachusetts

A goal post with the breast cancer logo is shown before a game between the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals

A goal post with the breast cancer logo is shown before a game between the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals. | Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 457.5

The New England state of Massachusetts is a far cry from the Midwest, but there are hypotheses out there that elevated cancer risks in both regions are related. Specifically, acidic rain — formed by picking up heavy metals and elements in the Rust Belt — falls in the Northeastern U.S., possibly leading to an increased risk of a diagnosis. That’s still a theory, but Massachusetts is the first of many Northeastern states you’ll see on this list.

12. Mississippi

A Mississippi State Bulldogs cheerleader wears a Brest Cancer ribbon

A Mississippi State Bulldogs cheerleader wears a breast cancer ribbon. | Butch Dill/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 459.9

Mississippi catches a lot of flack from the rest of the country. In many respects, Mississippi’s populace is the most unhealthy in America. That includes statistics, such as obesity rates and alcohol- and tobacco-use rates. Plus, cancer diagnoses are also high. Per 100,000 people, 459.9 in Mississippi come down with some form of cancer. Breast cancer is the most common type, followed by lung and colorectal.

11. Maine

Church spires and a water tank stand atop a hill in Lubec, Maine

Church spires and a water tank stand atop a hill in Lubec, Maine. | Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 463.8

We mentioned you’d be seeing more of the Northeast and New England, and here you go. Maine is just outside of the top 10 in terms of diagnosis data from the CDC. Overall, cancer is the leading cause of death in the state, and there were 8,300 people diagnosed and more than 3,200 deaths as a result in 2010.

10. West Virginia

WVU Cancer Institute

WVU Cancer Institute entrance | WVU Cancer Institute via Facebook

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 464

West Virginia has the 10th-highest rate of cancer diagnoses in the U.S., according to the CDC. The most common new diagnoses, in order of highest incident rates, were female breast, prostate, and lung and bronchus cancers. Unfortunately, CDC data also from 2013 show 190.5 people died of cancer out of 100,000 residents in West Virginia, the third-highest rate of death from cancer in the country.

9. Connecticut

cancer treatment

Technician Sandra Davis looks on as breast cancer patient Heraleen Broome, who is participating in a clinical trial, runs through a CT scan. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 474.2

Like West Virginia, the most common types of diagnoses in Connecticut are female breast, prostate, and lung and bronchus cancers. However, in contrast, the rate of death is 147.8 people per every 100,000 residents — a low rate that ranks as the eighth-best in the nation. As you might have taken note, Connecticut is yet another state in the Northeast that experiences higher rates of diagnoses.

8. Louisiana

cancer treatment, chemotherapy

A breast cancer patient receives a chemotherapy drip. |Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 476.3

Louisiana is also among the 10 states with the highest rate of cancer, coming in at No. 8 on the list. The top three most common cancers don’t change, but their order does. Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed form in the state, followed by female breast and lung and bronchus cancers. With a death rate of 188.7 people for every 100,000 living in the state, Louisiana has the fifth-highest rate of cancer-related deaths in the nation.

7. New Hampshire

medical staff

Medical staff at Norris Cotton Cancer Center in New Hampshire | Norris Cotton Cancer Center via Facebook

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 479.2

The rate of diagnoses continues to climb with New Hampshire — as it does for many other surrounding states. For every 100,000 people living in the state in 2013, about 479 were diagnosed with some type of cancer. Following the national trends, a significant portion of those diagnoses was for female breast, prostate, and lung and bronchus cancers.

6. Rhode Island

Woman holding a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

A woman holds a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon. | iStock.com/AND-ONE

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 479.4

Rhode Island is just above New Hampshire’s rate of diagnoses, with the same three types of cancer as the most common. The main difference is the eventual outcomes: New Hampshire ranks low at No. 33 for cancer deaths in 2013, while Rhode Island is at No. 15. And yet again, Rhode Island is in that particularly troubling part of the country suffering from higher rates of diagnoses.

5. Pennsylvania

chemotherapy treatment

A patient receives IV chemotherapy treatment. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 483

Because cancer rates are determined per capita, a high rate doesn’t necessarily mean that state also has the highest number of cancer diagnoses. However, Pennsylvania is one of the states where those two statistics overlap. Pennsylvania had the fifth-highest rate of diagnoses in the nation based on 2013 data, and it appears as if that trend might not let up. According to the American Cancer Society, the state also has the fifth-highest estimation of new cancer cases in 2017.

4. New Jersey

Cancer sucks buttons

“Cancer sucks” buttons | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 483.1

Similar to Rhode Island and New Hampshire, very little separates the diagnosis rates between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The most common types of the disease continue to follow national trends, and the diagnosis rates themselves are incredibly close. Also like Pennsylvania, New Jersey follows the trend of having a high number of overall diagnoses, according to the American Cancer Society. But once again, the main difference is the eventual outcomes. While Pennsylvania ranked No. 19 in terms of deaths per 100,000 people, New Jersey ranked No. 37 — remarkably better than the neighboring state.

3. New York

cancer treatment

Youssef Cohen, 68, sits while undergoing treatment in New York City as his wife, Lindsay Wright, looks on. | John Moore/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 484.3

New York is the third state on our list to have a high rate of new diagnoses but also one of the highest numbers of overall cancer cases. In fact, the American Cancer Society predicts there will be 107,530 new cases in the state in 2017 — the third-highest number in the country after California and Florida. (Both of those states have small rates per capita, however, because of their large populations.) In terms of death rates, however, New York comes in at No. 38, the second best on the list after Connecticut.

2. Delaware

Former Vice President Joe Biden attends the funeral of his son, Beau, after a two-year bout of brain cancer

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his family attend the funeral of his son, Beau Biden, in Delaware. | Mark Makela/Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 502

Though many of the diagnosis rates are relatively close together, there is a significant jump from New York to Delaware. For every 100,000 people, there are approximately 18 more cases in Delaware compared to the Empire State. Within the top 10 list, that’s the largest jump. The same three cancers are the most diagnosed, though in Delaware the rates are far above the national averages.

1. Kentucky

Smoker lung

Smoker lung | ACS via Getty Images

Rate of diagnoses per 100,000 people: 511.7

Though not as large of a jump from New York to Delaware, Kentucky’s rate of new cancer diagnoses is significantly higher. For every 100,000 people in the state, 511.7 of them were diagnosed with some form in 2013. Unfortunately, Kentucky also has the largest rate of cancer-related deaths in the nation. For every 100,000 people, approximately 199.3 people died as a result in 2013, far above the national average of 163.

The same three cancers are the most diagnosed, but the rate of lung and bronchus diagnoses is far above the national measurement. Unsurprisingly, related deaths from cigarettes are highest in Kentucky.

Additional reporting by Nikelle Murphy.

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