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Kentucky Ranks #1 Among Cancer Deaths


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The cancer death rate in America is declining.

A new national cancer study looks at the numbers between 2002 and 2004. It shows the cancer death rate decreased by 2.1-percent each year.

But while those numbers declined, Kentucky remains the state with the highest number of cancer deaths across the country.

"I don't miss checkups, but maybe that's part of being a cancer survivor," Joyce Light explained.

Light is a former Bowling Green teacher, a worker at First Baptist Church and a survivor of thyroid and carcinoma cancer.

"I had two types of cancer and I found it early," Light added.

Now, Joyce is cancer free, but her home state of Kentucky is suffering from the highest cancer death rates in the country.

Here in Kentucky, tobacco is a tradition and a livelihood.

But according to the American Cancer Society, the state's cancer death rate is directly linked to the crop in several ways.

"We do have some of the lowest cigarette taxes in the country," explained Melinda Craft, with the American Cancer Society.

And then there's the issue of the smoking ban that has yet to take affect in area restaurants.

"We do know that secondhand smoke is deadly, and it does cause lung cancer and people do die from it. Passage of clean air ordinances are a proven means of reducing death," she continued.

But despite Kentucky's top ranking in cancer deaths, the numbers have dropped in recent years.

That's something Joyce attributes to a more common awareness of the disease.

"With this being breast cancer awareness month, you hear about women getting their mammograms, where they can get their mammograms, if they can't afford them, they know what to do," Light said.

"We still have one in three people diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, so to be a survivor, you have to be diligent," Craft added.

"I just know that it's a lot easier to treat when you catch it early, and be aggressive with your treatment and pay attention to what your doctor's telling you," Light concluded.

According to the National Cancer Institute, three area counties have actually shown an increase in the number of cancer-related deaths.

Those counties are Allen, Metcalfe and Russell.

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