This Alaska City Has Been Named the Highest Cancer Rates in the State

The answer lies in Anchorage, Alaska, the state’s largest and most populous city. According to data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services spanning 2016-2020, Anchorage displayed an age-adjusted cancer incidence rate of 469.8 cases per 100,000 population. This rate surpassed those of other Alaskan boroughs and census areas and also exceeded the national average.

Anchorage: The City with the Highest Cancer Rates

Anchorage reported elevated rates for various cancer types, including lung and bronchus, colon and rectum, breast (female), prostate (male), bladder, kidney and renal pelvis, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and melanoma of the skin. Among these, lung and bronchus cancer was particularly prominent, with a rate of 67.9 cases per 100,000 population, followed by colon and rectum cancer at 49.5 cases per 100,000 population.

Numerous potential factors may contribute to these heightened cancer rates in Anchorage. These factors encompass environmental, behavioral, genetic, and socioeconomic elements, including:

Air Pollution: Anchorage’s geographical location, nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains, can trap air pollutants from various sources, such as vehicles, industries, and wildfires. This elevated air pollution level can heighten the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

Smoking: Smoking constitutes a significant risk factor for lung cancer and several other cancer types. Alaska’s smoking prevalence was 19% among adults in 2019, higher than the national average of 14%. Anchorage reported a smoking prevalence of 18% among adults in 2018, slightly lower than the state average but still higher than the national average.

Obesity: Obesity is another risk factor for multiple cancer types, including colon and rectum, breast (female), endometrial, kidney, and pancreatic cancers. In 2019, Alaska had an obesity prevalence of 31% among adults, exceeding the national average of 30%. Anchorage displayed an obesity prevalence of 29% among adults in 2018, lower than the state average but still above the national average.

Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol consumption can elevate the risk of oral cavity and pharynx, esophageal, liver, breast (female), and colorectal cancers. Alaska’s alcohol consumption prevalence was 19% among adults in 2019, surpassing the national average of 18%. Anchorage’s alcohol consumption prevalence was 20% among adults in 2018, exceeding both the state and national averages.

Sun Exposure: Sun exposure can increase the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. Alaska experiences long daylight hours during summer months, potentially leading to increased sun exposure for residents. Anchorage reported a high rate of melanoma of the skin, with 18.1 cases per 100,000 population in 2016-2020, exceeding both state and national averages.

Race/Ethnicity: Race and ethnicity can influence cancer risk due to genetic variations and cultural practices. Anchorage’s population in 2020 was diverse, with 66% White alone (non-Hispanic), 9% Black or African American alone (non-Hispanic), 8% Asian alone (non-Hispanic), 7% American Indian and Alaska Native alone (non-Hispanic), 10% Hispanic or Latino (of any race), and 10% Two or more races (non-Hispanic). Different racial and ethnic groups may have varying rates for specific cancer types.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Anchorage, while known for its attractions and opportunities, grapples with elevated cancer rates compared to other cities in Alaska and the nation. Multiple factors, such as air pollution, smoking, obesity, alcohol consumption, sun exposure, and race/ethnicity, may interact and impact various cancer types differently.

It is essential for Anchorage residents to be aware of their cancer risk and adopt preventive measures, including avoiding tobacco use, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol intake, safeguarding their skin from the sun, and undergoing regular cancer screenings to reduce their cancer risk and enhance their overall health and well-being.

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