Millions of people in the United States are affected by cancer each year, making it a significant public health challenge. The National Cancer Institute reports that in 2020, there were 1.9 million new cancer cases and 608,570 deaths related to cancer. However, the burden of cancer is not evenly distributed across different areas, as various factors such as genetic predisposition, access to healthcare, economic status, lifestyle choices, and environmental exposure contribute to regional disparities.
Illinois Cancer Statistics
With a population of approximately 12.7 million residents in 2020, Illinois is among the most populous states in the US. However, it also has higher cancer rates compared to the national average. As per the data released by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Cancer Registry, there were 77,660 new cancer cases and 25,250 cancer-related deaths in the state in 2020.
According to the latest data, the incidence rate for all cancers in the resident population was 459.7 per 100,000, which is above the national average of 442.3 per 100,000. Similarly, the mortality rate for all cancers was 156.6 per 100,000, which is also higher than the national average of 149.5 per 100,000. These statistics highlight the need for increased awareness and improved cancer prevention measures in the affected areas.
In 2020, the top five most commonly diagnosed cancers in Illinois were breast, lung and bronchus, prostate, colon and rectum, and bladder. Breast cancer had the highest number of cases at 14,240, followed by lung and bronchus at 12,910, prostate at 10,720, colon and rectum at 8,210, and bladder at 4,140. Lung and bronchus cancer was the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Illinois with 9,300 deaths in 2020. This was followed by colon and rectum with 2,820 deaths, pancreas with 2,280 deaths, breast with 2,050 deaths, and liver and bile duct with 1,720 deaths.
Cook County: The Highest Cancer Rates in Illinois
With a population of around 5.1 million in 2020, Cook County holds the title for the most populous county in Illinois. Unfortunately, it also experiences the highest cancer rates in the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Cancer Registry have reported 30,610 new cancer cases and 10,040 cancer-related deaths in Cook County in 2020.
In terms of cancer, the age-adjusted incidence rate for all types of cancer in the region was 494.6 per 100,000 residents, which is considerably higher than the state rate of 459.7 per 100,000. Moreover, the age-adjusted mortality rate for all cancer types was 162.8 per 100,000 residents, which is also significantly greater than the state rate of 156.6 per 100,000.
In 2020, breast cancer was the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer in Cook County, with 5,560 cases reported. Other common types of cancer diagnoses in the area included lung and bronchus (5,020 cases), prostate (4,020 cases), colon and rectum (3,200 cases), and bladder cancer (1,620 cases). Unfortunately, cancer-related deaths were also prevalent in Cook County, with lung and bronchus cancer being the leading cause of death (3,640 deaths). Other common causes of cancer-related deaths included colon and rectum cancer (980 deaths), pancreas cancer (880 deaths), breast cancer (800 deaths), as well as liver and bile duct cancer (680 deaths).
Why Does Cook County Have High Cancer Rates?
There are various possible reasons for Cook County’s higher cancer rates when compared to other counties in Illinois and the entire country. These factors may include:
- Environmental factors: Cook County is home to Chicago, known for its industrial history and urban development, which may lead to environmental pollution and exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, radon, lead, benzene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Additionally, many residents live near major highways or airports, increasing their exposure to traffic-related air and noise pollution.
- Lifestyle factors: Cook County has a high prevalence of smoking among adults (16.4%) and youth (10.9%). This is a significant risk factor for lung and other cancers. Additionally, a substantial percentage of adults in Cook County are obese (29.9%), physically inactive (23.9%), or engage in excessive alcohol consumption (19.4%), which are linked to higher risks of various cancers.
- Socioeconomic factors: Income inequality and poverty are prevalent in Cook County, limiting access to healthcare and preventive services like cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment. Racial and ethnic diversity within the county may also contribute to differences in genetic susceptibility, cultural beliefs, and health behaviors.
- Healthcare factors: A significant number of Cook County residents lack health insurance or have inadequate coverage, making it challenging to access quality healthcare and cancer treatment. There is also a shortage of primary care physicians and oncologists, which hinders cancer prevention and care efforts.
Cancer rates in Cook County surpass both state and national averages, with various factors contributing to these disparities. These factors include environmental, lifestyle, socioeconomic, and healthcare issues that impact cancer risk and outcomes for residents. It is crucial to collaborate with government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, researchers, and individuals to address these factors and decrease the cancer burden in Cook County. Implementing proven strategies for cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment can significantly enhance the quality of life for Cook County residents and diminish the overall cancer burden in the state.