North Central Florida has the highest cancer mortality rate in the state, according to a recent report from a Florida Department of Health cancer control initiative.
The death rate of all cancers in the region is 28 percent higher than the rest of the state, according to the 2013 North Central Florida Cancer Report.
The report compared cancer death rates, incidence rates, emergency room visits and hospital discharge data from 11 counties including Alachua, Bradford and Levy counties.
Although the number of documented new cancer diagnoses is lower in the region than in the state, North Central Florida residents are dying of cancer more frequently, according to a press release from the WellFlorida Council for the North Central Florida Cancer Control Collaborative.
“This discrepancy indicates a need for improvement in cancer screening, education, awareness, access to healthcare services and other systemic issues,” said Jeff Feller, chief executive officer for WellFlorida, in a statement.
Lauren Pollock, a council associate planner for WellFlorida, said the percent of advanced-stage colorectal, breast, cervical and prostate cancers diagnosed in the region is higher than the state average.
“That statistic was the most shocking to me, because they’re all cancers that have regular screenings,” she said. “These are ones that can be caught in time, but these people aren’t being screened.”
The report suggests that rural populations experience higher mortality rates from certain cancers.
In some of the region’s more rural counties, 21 percent of residents live below poverty and the rates of uninsured residents are as high as 28 percent, according to the report.
Dr. Folakemi T. Odedina, an associate director for the UF Shands Cancer Center, said although socioeconomics and limited health care access is one part of the issue, getting regularly screened and living a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of cancer.
“I think the report is a wakeup call for the community,” she said. “We really have to work together hand in hand to solve the cancer problem.”