Fewer Iowans dying of breast cancer, new report shows

Trend attributed to better screening, treatment

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March 28, 2014 | 12:59 pm

UPDATE: The breast cancer mortality rate in Iowa has dropped significantly over the past 20 years, University of Iowa doctors said Wednesday, a trend they expect to continue thanks to better screening and treatment advancements.

Age-adjusted breast cancer mortality rates were stable from 1976 to 1992, when the rates peaked, but then decreased 40 percent from 1992 to 2010, when the mortality rate was 19.4 per 100,000 women. The data is from the Cancer in Iowa 2013 report, released Wednesday.

"When you look over the past 20 years, you can see that we're clearly making progress," said Dr. George Weiner, director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the UI. "We're going to be able to keep that curve going down and reduce that mortality from breast cancer even further" due to progress in treatment and gene therapies.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Iowa, and today there are more than 33,000 breast cancer survivors in the state, according to the UI report.

Doctors have learned how to better identify women from families with high risk of breast cancer; women have learned more about lifestyle factors, such as obesity, that impact breast cancer rates; and screening advancements make early detection easier, the UI doctors said.

As doctors understand more about the molecular subtyping of breast cancer, they can develop treatments and therapies that are tailored to each woman and each tumor, said Dr. Sonia Sugg, medical director of UI Breast Health. So a molecular test can tell the physician whether chemotherapy benefits that patient, for example. If it does not, the patient wouldn't be subjected to chemotherapy.

"The treatment of each cancer can be personalized," she said.

The data is from the Cancer in Iowa 2013 report, released Wednesday by the State Health Registry of Iowa, based in the UI College of Public Health. This year's report focuses on trends in female breast cancer, but it also projects cancer deaths and new cancers diagnosed in Iowa for 2013.

It's estimated that 6,400 Iowans will die from cancer in this year, with lung cancer the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women, causing one in every four cancer deaths, according to the report.

Of the estimated 3,400 male cancer deaths this year in Iowa, 990 of those, or 29 percent, will be from lung cancer. Of the estimated 3,000 female cancer deaths this year, 710 of those, or nearly 24 percent, will be from lung cancer.

Breast cancer is the second-leading type of cancer death among Iowa women, while colon and rectum cancer are the second most common cancer death among men.

An estimated 17,300 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among Iowa residents this year, the report states.

Cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death in Iowa.

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