May 15, 2023 - Health

Cancer deaths drop in D.C.

Change in cancer death rates by congressional district
Data: American Cancer Society. Note: Death rate is computed as the average of the male and female rates. Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Cancer deaths in D.C. dropped 61% over the past quarter century, higher than typical declines nationwide, according to a study published in the journal Cancer.

Zoom in: In the District, the death rate was 423.9 between 1996 and 2003. It dropped to 163.9 between 2012 and 2020.

  • In Virginia, a 37.2% drop occurred on average. The 8th District encompassing Alexandria saw a nearly 43% drop.
  • In Maryland, the average drop was 39.1%. The district that includes Potomac saw a 28.8% drop, while the area around Takoma Park and other parts of Montgomery County had a 31.9% drop.

By the numbers: Lung cancer saw the biggest drop among men, declining between 21% and 72% since 1996. Districts located in the Midwest and South which generally have weaker tobacco control policies saw the smallest declines, the authors noted.

  • Female breast cancer deaths dropped between 14% and 58% depending on the district. Prostate cancer deaths dropped between 25% and 68% depending on the district.

Yes, but: The study found "substantial" disparities. For instance, the decline in cancer deaths was steepest among Black men, but overall cancer mortality is substantially higher among Black people.

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