Millions of people in the United States are affected by cancer, making it a significant public health challenge. In 2020, approximately 1.9 million new cases of cancer and 608,570 cancer-related deaths were reported by the National Cancer Institute. However, the burden of cancer is not equally distributed across regions, as factors like environmental exposure, lifestyle choices, economic status, access to healthcare, and genetic predisposition contribute to disparities in cancer rates.
Illinois Cancer Statistics
In 2020, about 12.7 million people were living in Illinois, making it one of the most populous states in the US. However, the state is also known for having higher cancer rates compared to the national average. Records from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Cancer Registry indicate that there were 77,660 new cancer cases and 25,250 cancer-related deaths in the same year.
According to the latest statistics, the age-adjusted incidence rate for all cancers stood at 459.7 per 100,000 residents, which is above the national rate of 442.3 per 100,000. Similarly, the age-adjusted mortality rate for all cancers in the country was 156.6 per 100,000, higher than the national rate of 149.5 per 100,000.
In 2020, a staggering 14,240 cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in Illinois, making it the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the state. Lung and bronchus cancer followed closely, with 12,910 cases detected. Prostate cancer ranked third with 10,720 cases, while colon and rectum cancer were diagnosed in 8,210 individuals. Bladder cancer rounded off the top five with 4,140 cases reported. Sadly, cancer-related deaths were also prevalent in Illinois, with lung and bronchus cancer causing the most deaths at 9,300. Colon and rectum cancer followed with 2,820 deaths, while pancreas cancer caused 2,280 deaths. Breast cancer was responsible for 2,050 deaths, and liver and bile duct cancer caused 1,720 deaths.
Cook County: The Highest Cancer Rates in Illinois
With a population of around 5.1 million residents in 2020, Cook County is the most densely populated county in Illinois. Unfortunately, it also has the highest incidence of cancer in the state. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Cancer Registry reported 30,610 new cancer cases and 10,040 cancer-related deaths in Cook County in 2020.
In this region, the incidence rate for all cancers was 494.6 per 100,000 residents, which is significantly higher than the state rate of 459.7 per 100,000. Additionally, the mortality rate for all cancers in this region was 162.8 per 100,000 residents, which is also notably higher than the state rate of 156.6 per 100,000.
In 2020, breast cancer topped the list of most commonly diagnosed cancers in Cook County with 5,560 cases. Lung and bronchus cancer came in second with 5,020 cases, followed by prostate cancer with 4,020 cases, and colon and rectum cancer with 3,200 cases. Bladder cancer was also prevalent with 1,620 cases. Meanwhile, the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in Cook County that year were lung and bronchus cancer with 3,640 deaths, followed by colon and rectum cancer with 980 deaths. Pancreas cancer caused 880 deaths, while breast cancer was responsible for 800 deaths. Lastly, liver and bile duct cancer caused 680 deaths.
Why Does Cook County Have High Cancer Rates?
There are several factors that could be contributing to the higher cancer rates in Cook County when compared to other counties in Illinois and across the United States. These factors need to be carefully examined in order to better understand the situation.
- 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.
The cancer rates in Cook County surpass both state and national averages, and the reasons for this are multifaceted. The county’s residents are affected by environmental, lifestyle, socioeconomic, and healthcare factors, which contribute to their increased susceptibility to the disease. To decrease the cancer burden in Cook County, it’s crucial to collaborate with various stakeholders, including government agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, researchers, and individuals. By working together, these entities can tackle the root causes of the issue and implement evidence-based strategies for cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. This approach not only improves the overall well-being of Cook County residents but also reduces the state’s cancer burden.