Urban-Rural Disparities In Cancer Deaths


Researchers found striking disparities in mortality rates from lung, prostate and colon cancer between urban and rural areas.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, so it is crucial to understand as much as possible about the factors affecting cancer rates and mortality. Prior health services research has found that rates of cancer diagnosis and mortality vary between rural and urban areas, though the exact nature of geography’s effects on cancer mortality is still incomplete.

In a new policy brief from the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA)-funded Southwest Rural Health Research Center at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, researchers led by Timothy Callaghan, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, build on prior work to study differences in mortality from common cancers—breast, lung, cervical, prostate and colon—across levels of rurality in the United States.

To accomplish this, Callaghan, along with School of Public Health colleagues Alva O. Ferdinand, DrPH, JD,; Marvellous Akinlotan, MPH; Kristi Primm, MPH; Samuel Towne, PhD, and Jane Bolin, PhD, JD, analyzed data on cancer mortality from 1999 to 2016 from the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This data included information on cause of death as well as demographic and geographic factors, such as rural or urban status.

Their analysis found a striking difference in cancer mortality across levels of rurality and cancer type. When analyzing lung cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer, they found higher mortality rates in rural areas than in urban areas.

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