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Posted at 2:28 p.m. EST Saturday, March 24, 2001

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Data shows cancer rates up in Ohio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- New figures that show Ohioans have a higher incidence for various types of cancer could help communities fight the disease, experts say.

According to data from the Ohio Cancer Incidence Surveillance System, the average number of new cancer cases reported in Ohio from 1996 through 1998 -- the most recent years available -- was 51,228 per year. Breast, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers make up 57 percent of the cases.

Ohio ranks 13th in the country in cancer deaths and is among the worst when it comes to smoking and obesity, both key contributors to cancer.

The data also shows statistics on a county-by-county-basis. In Marion County, for example, the rate of pancreatic cancer nearly doubled the state average of 8.1 cases per 100,000 residents.

That's the kind of information that could lead to an increase in early detection and help decrease cancer rates, said Dr. Kim Mortensen, regional planning manager for the American Cancer Society's Ohio division.

``In trying to figure out the cancer burden in a community, we haven't had very much to use until recently,'' he said. ``It's critical data to be able to tell where the problems are worst: In one county, smoking may be the biggest problem, in another, prostate cancer.''

The numbers, however, are not enough to provide a detailed analysis of cancer in Ohio because they are only for three years.

A thorough analysis might take another decade, Donn Young, a biostatistician at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told The Columbus Dispatch for a story Saturday.

``We're finally getting data that all of us are kind of chomping at the bit to use, but sometimes you just can't hurry these things up,'' Young said.

The system was established a decade ago, but there wasn't adequate funding to compile the data until recent years.

And people who compile cancer data are still trying to get information on all cases.

In 1998, the surveillance system knew about an estimated 92 percent of cancer cases. The data isn't enough to discern the rate of a particular type of cancer until 95 percent of cases have been reported, Young said.

Cases of breast, prostate, colorectal and skin cancers were underreported in the latest data.

Robert Indian, the Ohio Department of Health's chief of community health assessments, said a push to find all cancer cases should help.

Starting in 1999, radiation centers and ambulatory surgery centers have been encouraged to report cases. The Department of Health also plans to boost audits of data provided by hospitals.

The cancer registry's advisory board this month recommended that lawmakers allow it to levy fines against hospitals that have long-term reporting problems.

The board also has asked for a requirement that cancer diagnostic and treatment facilities be required to report cases and an additional $700,000 in state funds to hire more staff.

The health department currently pulls in almost $880,000 in state money for the registry. Contributions from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention bring the total budget to $1.5 million.


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