Leukemia is a Big Risk if You Live in 1 of These American States

No one wants to deal with cancer, but it isn’t up to you. Cancer doesn’t discriminate about whom it impacts, and you can still be diagnosed even if you do all the things you’re supposed to do to avoid it. You might not know it, but leukemia is cancer, too, and it’s one of the most fatal types around. Depending on where you live, you might be more prone to receiving a leukemia diagnosis. These states have the highest rates of leukemia in the country.

We’re basing our countdown on Centers for Disease Control data. In the event of ties, we placed the state with more diagnoses higher up the list. Thousands of miles separate two states on our list (Nos. 6 and 5), but they’re identical in the diagnosis rate per 100,000 people.

What is leukemia?

Blood test tubes.

Leukemia affects your blood. | Bet_Noire/iStock/Getty Images

Before we dive in, we want to tell you what we’re dealing with. Unlike many cancers, you won’t develop a tumor when you have leukemia. The disease affects your body’s blood-forming tissue, according to the Mayo Clinic. That means your bone marrow and lymphatic system produce blood cells (usually white blood cells) that don’t work properly.

Risk factors that increase your chances of developing leukemia include previous cancer treatments, exposure to certain chemicals, smoking, and genetic disorders.

Next: The rate is high even if the number of diagnoses isn’t.

15. Wyoming

Jackson, Wyoming

Jackson and the rest of Wyoming have more leukemia cases than most states. | Town of Jackson via Facebook

Diagnosis rate per capita: 14.7

If we were discussing the states with the most leukemia cases, Wyoming wouldn’t be anywhere close to making the list. Its 96 cases in 2015, the last year for which the CDC has data, is one of the fewest in the country, but the rate per 100,000 is on the high side.

Next: It seems like this state always has it rough.

14. West Virginia

Patient lying on bed

West Virginia has multiple health issues. | Ridofranz/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 14.7

West Virginia has lots of natural beauty, but it always seems to have it rough when it comes to health issues. It has one of the shortest life expectancies in the United States, perhaps because of its high suicide rate and terrible drug problems. Seeing West Virginia pop up on our list isn’t unusual. It has one of the highest rates of diagnosis for all forms of cancer.

Next: Two unwanted distinctions for this state.

13. New Mexico

Santa Fe, New Mexico church

Santa Fe, New Mexico.| ablokhin/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 14.7

New Mexico edges West Virginia thanks to its higher number of leukemia cases, 353-339. It’s the only state from the southwest to show up, and it has another unwanted distinction. In addition to the high leukemia rate, it’s one of the most dangerous states in America.

Next: Let’s head east for a few minutes.

12. Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Pennsylvania has a lot of leukemia cases. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 14.8

The overall quality of life makes the Keystone State one of the worst states to live in, according to one study. The leukemia rate contributes to that ranking, and with 2,353 cases, Pennsylvania is among the leaders based on the sheer number of diagnoses.

Next: We can only guess as to what puts this state on the list.

11. Maine

Doctor and Patient lying on bed

Maine is a cancer hotbed. | Jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 15.1

With 15.1 cases per 100,000 people and 265 diagnoses, Maine almost makes our top 10. This is just our best guess, but since Maine also has one of the higher rates of all cancer diagnoses, and previous treatments increase the risk factor, that might be why the leukemia rate is on the high side.

Next: There’s a small silver lining for this state.

10. New Jersey

New Jersey

Exchange Place in Jersey City, New Jersey. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 15.1

A cancer diagnosis is nothing to take lightly, and the 1,559 people with leukemia in New Jersey probably aren’t smiling. But there is a silver lining. The state has tons of millionaire households, so many people can afford treatment to fight the disease.

Next: A double whammy for this state.

9. South Dakota

A tourist takes a picture of Mount Rushmore National Memorial from outside the park on October 1, 2013 in Keystone, South Dakota. Mount Rushmore and all other national parks were closed today after congress failed to pass a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job. A bulletin issued by the Department of Interior states, 'Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities ...Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately...' (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, a state that has a high leukemia rate. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 15.6

A state where it’s tough to make a living also has one of the highest rates of leukemia in America. That’s a double whammy for South Dakota, and it gets worse. Leukemia is the fifth-leading cause of cancer deaths there, according to the South Dakota Cancer Coalition.

Next: This state is facing its problem head-on.

8. Kansas

doctor talking to a male patient in an exam room

Kansas is facing leukemia head-on. | iStock.com

Diagnosis rate per capita: 15.9

Kansas’ leukemia rate per 100,000 people is No. 8 on our countdown, but the state is facing the disease head-on. The University of Kansas Medical Center is on the leading edge of treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia with prescription medication.

Next: Men receive more diagnoses than women in this state.

7. Kentucky

Doctor and patient

Men in Kentucky receive more leukemia diagnoses than women. | Gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 15.9

Both Kentucky and Kansas have the same leukemia diagnosis rate, but the Bluegrass States takes No. 7 because of the higher number of cases (804-513). According to in-depth CDC data, men receive the bad news much more often. The rate for men is 20.5 per capita compared to 12.0 for women.

Next: A Midwestern state where another type of cancer also is a problem.

6. Iowa

Iowa student, doctor, mumps vaccine

Iowa doctors excel at treating all forms of leukemia. | Mark Kegans/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 16.0

Bad news for Iowa — it’s lousy with cancer diagnoses. It has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the U.S., and now it makes this list, too. The good news is several hospitals in the state, including the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, excel at treating all forms of the disease.

Next: One thing Iowa and this state have in common.

5. New York

Tourists taking a photo of the statue of liberty

New York’s leukemia rate is one of the highest in the United States. | Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 16.0

No one is going to confuse New York for Iowa, but when it comes to leukemia rates, the states are identical. New York’s 3,624 leukemia diagnoses are one of the highest numbers in the country, which isn’t shocking given its large population. However, even though you’re more likely to get cancer, the Empire State has a very low mortality rate.

Next: The drinking water might be to blame.

4. Wisconsin

State Capitol building in Madison Wisconsin

Wisconsin state capitol in Madison. | csfotoimages/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 16.1

Remember how we said exposure to certain chemicals increases your leukemia risk? Well, that can easily happen in Wisconsin. The state’s drinking water exceeds the legal limit for several chemicals and harmful elements. That could be why it has one of the highest rates and highest numbers of leukemia cases in America.

Next: Tough luck times two in this northwestern state.

3. Idaho

Meridian, Idaho

Meridian, Idaho. | Village at Meridian/Wikimedia Commons

Diagnosis rate per capita: 16.6

It’s tough luck times two in Idaho. Not only does it have the third-highest leukemia rate in the U.S, but it’s also one of the worst places you can live if you want decent health care.

Next: Our last two states are far ahead of the pack.

2. Minnesota

Minneapolis downtown skyline at sunset

A look at downtown Minneapolis. | Rudy Balasko/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Diagnosis rate per capita: 17.0

We’ve stopped in South Dakota, swung through Iowa, and visited Wisconsin, and now it’s time to meet the state that touches them all. Minnesota’s leukemia rate is higher than each of its aforementioned neighbors, and it has another dubious honor. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is also among the states with the highest rates of breast cancer.

Next: We don’t have to go far to visit No. 1 on the list.

1. North Dakota

Fargo, North Dakota, United States

North Dakota has the highest leukemia rate in America. | Ben Harding/iStock/Getty Images

Diagnosis rate per capita: 17.3

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably noticed we’ve spent a lot of time in two areas of the country. A few eastern states and a handful of states in the upper Midwest dominate the list, and North Dakota leads the way. It’s 143 leukemia cases is nowhere close to the most in the U.S., but its rate is far and away No. 1. So, if you’re in North Dakota and you have any of the cancer early warning signs, see your doctor as soon as you can.

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