Dr. Charles Lynch, medical director of the State Health Registry of Iowa, said this was the first time in 36 years of surveillance that more Iowans died of cancer, using age-adjusted rates.
Researchers, based at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, used 2007 data, the most recent available.
That year, 177 per 100,000 Iowans died of cancer, compared to 173 per 100,000 for heart disease. Women in particular had a higher incidence of cancer deaths.
Deaths from both diseases have declined since 1994.
“We are making progress in both heart disease and cancer,” said Dr. George Weiner, director of the UI-based Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Reasons for declining death rates in both cases include fewer people smoking, earlier detection of diseases and improved treatments, he said.
Between 1994 and 2007, cancer death rates in Iowa decreased 13 percent while heart disease death rates decreased 35 percent, the report stated.
Weiner noted that smoking cessation has a quicker impact on heart disease than on cancer, which can take years to develop, so changes in some cancer rates could be years away.
Iowa’s smoking ban went into effect in July 2008.
Lynch said that he expected the death rates to fluctuate, as obesity and diabetes — both of which are on the rise in Iowa and the nation — are more closely related to heart disease than cancer.
For 2010, the report predicts that 3,100 Iowa women and 3,300 Iowa men will die of cancer, the same as last year for women and up by 100 for men.
The report also projects that 8,000 new cancers will be diagnosed in women and 8,400 for men this year, up by 200 cases for both from 2009.
Dr. Richard Williams, UI urology professor and former chairman of the urology department, treated cancer patients for 30 years before discovering last year that he had lung cancer.
“I’m now looking at a completely different side of the fence,” he said.
Williams, 65, smoked years ago, but thinks his lung cancer is related to radon in his Iowa City home. He has since had the radon mitigated at a cost of $2,100, he said.
The full report is available online in the “publications” section on the State Health Registry of Iowa’s Web site: http://cph.uiowa.edu/shri