Maps Show Cancer Hot Spots in Iowa - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Maps Show Cancer Hot Spots in Iowa

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By Alex Schuman

aschuman@myabc5.com

@alexschuman

 
A map usually exists because someone wanted to show you something they thought was important.

And in the case of these cancer maps released every year by the University of Iowa, you can find sadness, sickness, and recovery; everything that can come with cancer.

The blue parts show a below average number of cases, and the red means the area suffered more than expected. 

"The map also allows you to see to see how the incidence of cancer relates to other issues," said Dr. Richard Deming, Mercy Cancer Center. "Such as income level."

People with a low income tend to have worse diets, smoke, and cannot afford proper health insurance.

"It's clear across the country that individuals that are the most disadvantaged have a higher incidence of cancer," said Deming.  "Cancer is found in those populations at a more advanced stage and the chances of being cured of cancer in those populations is lower."

If you take the map showing colon cancer incidence in Iowa and compare it to how many of those cases end in death, rural areas appear worse than cities.

"The nearest hospital might be many many miles away - so they put it off," said Chuck Reed, American Cancer Society.

Deming believes one thing pushing those numbers higher is insurance and the limitations of programs like IowaCare, which only allows people to go to a few locations for care in the entire state.

"Healthcare is more likely to be effective if it's given in a location where a person lives," said Deming.

It's a problem Democrats and Republicans in the statehouse have proposed two different ways to fix.  The Democrats want to expand Medicaid while Gov. Branstad wants to create a new program that promotes personal responsibility.

The American Cancer Society believes environments can also impact someone's likelihood of being diagnosed.

"You hear all the time about run-offs into streams from certain things that could damage water supplies and things like that," Reed said.  "We're trying to see why in certain rural areas there seems to be a higher rate of cancer."

They could not provide any evidence of a specific case when the environment caused an increase in cancer diagnoses in a community, but continue to investigate the possibility.

"We're taking a strong look at it," said Reed. "Look at your community [and ask], 'What do we offer to help people live healthy lifestyles?'"

Here is a direct link to the University of Iowa's maps: http://www.uiowa.edu/iowacancermaps/

More information on cancer in Iowa can also be found here: http://www.canceriowa.org/Home.aspx

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