Colorectal cancer rates decline in the commonwealth

Colorectal cancer rates decline in the commonwealth
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 3:01 PM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - There’s some good news when it comes to health care in Kentucky.

Experts at UK’s Markey Cancer Center say the commonwealth had the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates in the country 20 years ago and the second-lowest colorectal cancer screening rate.

Now, those numbers are going in a positive direction with a 30% decrease in incidence and mortality rates.

Dr. Thomas C. Tucker is the Senior Director of Cancer Surveillance at the UK Markey Cancer Center. He says 20 years ago colorectal cancer screenings statewide were at 35%. Fast forward to 2023, there’s a dramatic jump in colorectal cancer screenings at 75%.

“That’s a pretty remarkable increase in screening,” Dr. Tucker said.

Dr. Tucker says the more people who are screened, the more precancerous polyps can be found and removed, lowering the incidence rate. He says finding cancer at an early stage when treatments are more effective reduces the mortality rate.

A collaborative effort from cancer groups and state agencies has helped reduce colon cancer by 30%.

“650 fewer Kentuckians are diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. 270 fewer Kentuckians die from colorectal cancer each year. We were second to the lowest in colorectal cancer screening, and now we are twentieth compared to all the other states,” said Dr. Tucker. “It is very rewarding to see that change is occurring and change is occurring in the face of some really significant barriers that are not faced by any other states.”

The American Cancer Society lowered the suggested age of adult colorectal cancer screenings from 50 to 45. Dr. Tucker says colorectal cancer incidence rates are higher among younger populations in Kentucky compared to other states.

“Lowering the age will be beneficial over time to the population of Kentucky,” Dr. Tucker said.

Dr. Tucker says Kentucky has more work to do to reduce colorectal cancer. He says 25 to 30% of the eligible population remains unscreened.