The number of people diagnosed with cancer in Suffolk County held relatively stable between 1994 and 2008, but far fewer people are now dying of the disease, according to a study released on Monday.
The American Cancer Society’s first-ever Cancer Burden in New York State report also found that cancer rates upstate are "generally higher" than those found downstate, with smoking a major factor in the difference.
“Our analysis shows a ‘tale of two states,’” said Blair Horner, vice president for advocacy at the American Cancer Society of New York and New Jersey.
“Upstaters face higher cancer rates than downstaters, which is largely attributable to a significant difference in lung cancer prevalence."
Overall one in two men and one in three women in New York will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, according to the report.
In Suffolk County, each week, 161 people are diagnosed with cancer and 54 people die from the disease, the report said. The annual incidence rate of cancer in Suffolk dropped slightly, by 0.4 percent, from 526.6 cases per 100,000 people per year in 1994-98 to 524.5 cases for 2004-08.
The annual mortality rate, however, has decreased by 20.6 percent during the same period from 223.8 deaths per 100,000 people per year to 177.6 deaths.
Prostate cancer is New York’s most common cancer, the report said, but lung cancer is its biggest killer, with nearly 9,000 fatalities a year. Along with breast and colorectal, those four cancers account for more than half of all cancer diagnoses and nearly half of all cancer deaths.
In Suffolk lung cancer accounts for 13.6 percent of all cancer cases and 27.6 percent of all cancer deaths.
"This disproportionate mortality highlights the crucial need for prevention and cessation of tobacco use," the report read.
Suffolk's cancer rates are well below those in many upstate counties, but overall incidences of cancer are eight percent higher in Suffolk compared to the state average. The number of people dying of cancer upstate, however, is dramatically higher, and the report credits anti-smoking policies with preventing deaths downstate.
"The City of New York, [and some of its suburban neighbors], has a long history of aggressively implementing policies to curb tobacco use," the report read.
In Suffolk smoking is now banned at county parks and beaches and several have instituted similar measures.
Although fewer people are dying of cancer, the reports warned, "No county should feel complacent."
"Cancer still impacts too many New Yorkers, and many cancer deaths are avoidable," it said. "Every county experiences cancer incidence and mortality rates that are too high."
To remedy that the American Cancer Society recommends the state reverse the decline in funding to the New York State Tobacco Control Program, which has seen its budget slashed by more than half during the past five years.
Assemblyman Dan Losquadro, R-Riverhead, told Patch that the state budget for tobacco control, down from $85.5 million in 2007 to $41.4 million this year, was cut in part due to the state's fiscal crisis.
Losquadro, however, called the reduced funding "short-sighted."
"This is an area I think you spend a little to save a lot," he said. "It is an investment in keeping health costs down for smoking related-diseases, including cancer."
The American Cancer Society report also recommends restricting the sale of flavored tobacco products to stores not accessible by minors, as well as banning minors from using indoor tanning facilities.
To read the full report click on the attached PDF file.