BALTIMORE – Prostate, lung, breast, and colon/rectal cancers make up 61 percent of new cases and 55 percent of cancer deaths in Maryland, health officials officials said Tuesday.
The statistics were contained in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Maryland Cancer Registry’s first statewide report on cancer.
Wanting to present more than just facts, charts and graphs, officials also gave practical advice on healthier diets and lifestyles.
“It’s hard data. I’m not hypothesizing,” said Dr. Martin P. Wasserman, health secretary. “When people worry about Maryland’s cancer mortality…they really need to worry about activities that they have control over.”
The data were gathered in 1992, when the state first required electronic reporting of cancer cases diagnosed or initially treated in Maryland hospitals, laboratories and radiation treatment centers.
Prior to that, reports were difficult to compile because there was no uniformity among health care providers.
Maryland has the fourth-highest cancer death rate among the United States and the District of Columbia.
The report found that:
– Of over 20,000 new cases of cancer reported in 1992, 19.7 percent were prostate cancer, 14.8 percent lung cancer, 14.6 percent breast cancer and 12.1 percent colon/rectum cancer.
– Of over 47,000 cancer deaths between 1987 and 1991, 28.3 percent were from lung cancer, 11.7 percent colon/rectum cancer, 8.5 percent breast cancer and 6.1 percent prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer patients have excellent survival rates because that form of the disease usually is not deadly, said Dr. Genevieve Matanoski, chairperson of the Maryland Cancer Registry Advisory Committee.
Matanoski said the popularity of the Prostatic Specific Antigen blood test, which is used for the early detection of prostate cancer, also helped keep survival rates high.
The American Cancer Society recommends that men over 50 get a PSA test as well as a rectal exam every year, said Eric Gally, public policy director.
Gally said that women between 40 and 50 should have mammograms and professional breast exams done by their physicians every two years, and women over 50 should have them done every year.
The Cancer Society’s philosophy is two-fold, Gally said.
First, annual checkups help people to “know their bodies.” Second, he said, early detection allows people to take advantage of “new developments [that] come up every day.”
“The public would rather be told it’s something over which [they] have no control,” he said. “That’s not the message they need to find out. They need to know that if they’re going to do something about cancer, it’s not the health department that’s going to fix it tor them. They’re going to have to not smoke. They’re going to have to change their dietary patterns.”
He said his department would continue to fight to get businesses and insurers to pay for programs to help smokers quit and to keep juveniles away from tobacco.
“We’re fighting Joe Camel,” Wasserman said.
Other ways that people can lower their risk of getting cancer, according to the Cancer Society:
– Don’t use tobacco products.
– Limit exposure to the sun and use a good sunscreen during exposure.
– Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.
– Exercise regularly. – Moderate alcohol intake. -30-