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Delaware Health and Social Services

DHSS Press Release

Date: July 20, 2015

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Emily Knearl, DPH Communications Director
302-255-9047, Cell 302-382-6267



DOVER, DE (July 20, 2015) - Over the past decade, Delaware's latest all-site cancer mortality rate substantially declined, particularly among African Americans according to data released by the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH). From 1997-2001 to 2007-2011, Delaware's all-site cancer mortality rate decreased 15.8 percent, a decline that was 21 percent greater than the national decline of 13.1 percent.

DPH presented cancer data from its new report, Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Delaware, 2007-2011, to the Delaware Cancer Consortium (DCC) in Dover at their Monday, July 20 meeting. Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Rita Landgraf and DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay addressed DCC members.

For the 2007-2011 time period, Delaware maintained its 2014 ranking of 14th highest among U.S. states for all-site cancer mortality, which is a substantial improvement from its top 5 ranking in the early 1990's. Among Delaware's African Americans, the all-site cancer mortality rate of 192.7 per 100,000 was significantly lower than the rate for U.S. African Americans.

Delaware also experienced a 24.5 percent decline in female breast cancer mortality likely due to improvement in early detection and screenings and more effective treatment. During the last decade, the female breast cancer mortality rate among Delaware African American females also decreased 33.0 percent compared to the U.S. decline of 13.6 percent; and 21.7 percent among Caucasian women in Delaware.

Regarding the incidence of colorectal cancer, Delaware's greatest improvements were observed among African Americans, where the rate was lower than the comparable U.S. rate (43.6 per 100,000 vs. 53.6 per 100,000). For the first time since cancer surveillance efforts began in Delaware, the difference is statistically significant. Additionally, during the last decade, colorectal cancer incidence rates for African American males and African American females in Delaware declined 34.0 percent, and 32.0 percent respectively.

"Many of these continued improvements are because Delawareans are getting screened and finding cancers earlier, when they are most treatable and have the best chance of survival," Secretary Landgraf said. In 2012, Delaware ranked fourth highest in the U.S. for colorectal cancer screening. Data from the 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance survey showed that Delaware ranked third highest nationally in the prevalence of women ages 40 and over who had a mammogram within the past two years (80.5 percent).

Despite significant progress made in several areas, public health officials acknowledge there is still more work to be done particularly in the area of lung cancer. For the 2007-2011 time period lung cancer accounted for 14.5 percent of all newly-diagnosed cancer cases and 29.9 percent of all cancer deaths in Delaware. Delaware females now rank fourth highest in the nation in lung cancer mortality, and Delaware males rank twelfth highest for lung cancer mortality.

"To help reduce the overall risk of future cancer occurrences, we must continue to work with Delawareans on making healthier lifestyle choices, such as not using tobacco, getting regular physical activity, and eating healthy diets, especially those high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in added sugars like sugar sweetened beverages," said Dr. Rattay. The report states that being overweight or obese increases a person's risk for cancer. It references that research has found strong evidence for a linear association between BMI and increased risk for the development of uterine, gallbladder, kidney, cervical, and thyroid cancers, as well as leukemia. A linear association means that as BMI increases, so, too, does the risk of development of the disease. As an example, those with a BMI of 40.0 or greater are at greater risk for cancer than those with a BMI of 35.0-39.9.

DPH also advises all Delawareans to have regular physician and dental visits to catch cancers early and to keep up with recommended cancer screenings as a preventive tool. DPH's Screening for Life Program now covers lung cancer screenings for uninsured or underinsured Delawareans who qualify for the Screening for Life Program and are not eligible for Medicaid or the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace. The low-dose CT scan is available to current and former smokers deemed at high-risk for lung cancer:

  • Current smokers or those who quit smoking within the last 15 years;
  • Those who smoke or have smoked the equivalent of a pack a day for 30 or more years; and
  • Those who are 55 to 80 years of age.

High-risk individuals seeking lung cancer screenings should visit or call 302-401-4212 to speak with a screening nurse navigator. Christiana Care Health System, Bayhealth Medical Center, and Beebe Healthcare will offer the screening.

To view the report and for more information about cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment, visit DPH's Cancer Prevention and Control Program website at The Delaware Cancer Consortium website is

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.

Last Updated: Tuesday July 21 2015
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