A new American Lung Association report finds that Maine has one of the highest rates of new cases of lung cancer in the U.S. The report also finds that those Mainers who do get lung cancer are slightly likelier than the national average to survive it for five years.
The report uses data from 2009-2013 and finds that Maine's incidence of lung cancer is just under 75 cases per 100,000 people, which is the sixth-worst rate in the country.
“We have known for a while that we have one of the higher incidence rates,” says American Lung Association Maine Public Policy Director Lance Boucher. “There's a lot of risk factors that go into lung cancer, smoking rate being one of them, and radon gas exposure, both of which are prevalent in Maine.”
Radon occurs naturally in Maine, and is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Tobacco use is the leading risk factor for lung cancer, and Mainers do have high smoking rates. But Boucher says the numbers suggest Mainers may also have high exposures to other risk factors, like air pollution in coastal counties.
“Wind patterns and the coastal conditions in Maine, we are the tailpipe of the Northeast,” says Boucher. “And a lot of the pollution from Midwest coal plants gets trapped here and results in Mainers having unhealthy air days.”
The report also finds that fewer Mainers are diagnosed in the early, more treatable stage of the cancer, than the national average. It predicts that more than 900 people will die from the disease this year.