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Does Where You Live Cause Cancer?

Does where you live cause cancer? It’s a frightening thought. Often, we expect the things we eat, or drink, our genetics, or our lifestyle choices to determine if we get this terrible disease. While this is still true, more and more studies are showing that where you live plays a massive role in how likely you are to develop cancer.

First of all, there are often multiple reasons why an individual gets cancer and they depend entirely upon a number of factors. When asking, “does where I live cause cancer?” you’re really asking a complicated question. The short answer is that a lot of things are completely outside of your control, such as age and hereditary factors.

However, the cancers that arise from other factors have begun to interest researchers. Scientists are now beginning to notice that your geographical location often determines a lot of the “choice factors” that can cause some cancers; such as the air you breathe, the food you eat, and the water you use to drink, clean and cook with.

So, does where you live cause cancer? If it didn’t, there wouldn’t be any significant difference in cancer rates from state to state. If you deny that where you live can cause cancer, you would have to explain why cancer rates are higher in one state over the other as shown by the CDC. Once we remove the variable of cancer detection rates from the argument, it becomes clear that where you live causes cancer.

The fact is that cancer is an epidemic in the US, and health professionals and researchers think that most cancers in this country are caused by a range of bad lifestyle choices.

So why do some states have lower rates than others?

Here’s a list of the states with lowest cancer rates:

Rank State Incidence Of All Types Of Cancer Per 100,000 Residents
1 New Mexico 363.7
2 Arizona 370.6
3 Wyoming 382.0
4 Utah 393.2
5 Colorado 396.1

All midwest and mountain states - an interesting geographical quirk or something else?

These US states with dramatically lower cancer rates have a few outstanding reasons for this variation.

Residents in these states tend to have healthier eating habits than those in other states. Access to fast food is limited, and as a result many people end up with a better diet almost by default. People in these states tend to smoke less too, which is obviously associated with respiratory cancers. The outdoorsy nature of these states also mean that people are less sedentary and more active.

Cancer rates -  Does where you live cause cancer?

Here is a list of states with the highest cancer rates:

Rank State Incidence Of All Types Of Cancer Per 100,000 Residents

1 Kentucky 511.7
2 Delaware 502.0
3 New York 484.3
4 New Jersey 483.1
5 Pennsylvania 483.0

The interesting thing that you’ll notice from this list is that all of these states are on the Eastern seaboard. Once you drill down into the data, then you can see the patterns emerging that we have seen revered elsewhere - bad diets, sedentary lifestyles and pollution.

Kentucky, rated as the #1 State in the US for cancer, has a few reasons for being top of this list, but mainly because was founded on the tobacco industry. It’s no surprise to see that lung cancer is higher here than any other state in the US.

Delaware, rated as #2, seems to suffer from colorectal and prostate cancers at an advanced rate. They tend to detect cancers at a higher rate than other states too, which explains the large numbers.

New York, at  #3, tends to see people suffering from lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer in relatively high numbers. Lifestyle and environmental factors play a large part in the high numbers here. Smog, pollution and the stressful way of life are among the key factors.

So, does where you live cause cancer? Research says it’s definitely a factor and something you should consider. If you live in a state with higher cancer incidents, it's a good idea to get tested more often. 

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