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Cancer leading cause of death in Idaho

Cancer has become the leading cause of death in Idaho since 2008, according to The Comprehensive Cancer Alliance for Idaho.

In Idaho half of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and lifestyle choices are one of the biggest factors.

“People ask me all the time, ‘When are we going to cure cancer?’ We cure cancer all the time. The secret is catching it early enough,” said Dr. Christian Shull, an oncologist at Teton Cancer Institute.

Shull said since the Great Recession, doctors have been diagnosing more late-stage cancers because finances are tight and people are skipping their screenings.

“This is a warning that when we prioritize the things we do with our lives, cancer screenings should be at the top of that,” said Shull.

At the top of the list for most preventable cancers is lung cancer.

“Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer and it’s not just lung cancer it’s head and neck cancer, bladder cancer, it can contribute to breast cancer. Aside from smoking diet plays a big role,” said Shull.

The American Cancer Society estimates up to one third of cancer deaths are due to nutritional factors, physical inactivity and excess weight.

“We know that obesity is an independent risk factor for getting breast cancer,” said Shull.

Living in eastern Idaho means an increased risk for melanoma because of the outdoor lifestyle.

There is a greater chance of developing blood cancers here.

“Something that’s important here in southeast Idaho is radiation exposure, it’s certainly a big factor in leukemia and lymphoma,” said Shull.

Curing cancer may be in the hands of researchers, but catching cancer early is a personal choice.

Some people just don’t want to know, but the key is to be so afraid of the disease that you want to catch it early so you can do something about it while it’s still curable.

Since 2002, cancer cases are increasing at a rate of .07 percent per year in Idaho, a significant decrease from the ’90s, when cancer rate increased at 1.4 percent per year.

Cancer treatment in Idaho accounted for nearly 11 percent of state and private insurance costs, which is the highest in the U.S.

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