Lung Cancer Remains #1 Killer In New York

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Story Updated: Dec 11, 2012

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network estimates 8,800 people died from lung cancer in New York state this year.

That's more than a quarter of all cancer deaths statewide, according to the latest report.

"It has an enormous impact both on individuals patients and society at large through additional health care costs," said Blair Horner, of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

It turns out that impact is much greater depending on where you are.

Upstate New York suffers much higher rates of lung cancer than downstate does.

"The disturbing part is the tale of two states in New York," said Horner.

Director of the Tobacco Prevention Awareness Cessation Coalition of Jefferson and Lewis Counties, Terra Thompson-Reed, says it's no surprise.

"Downstate, in New York City, they have very aggressive policies, higher taxes on cigarettes, they have a lower smoking rate. In upstate New York, we have a higher smoking rate," said Thompson-Reed.

"Upstate New York really waited for the state to act and it's not completely that, but partially the result is that you have higher lung cancer rates," said Horner.

Thompson-Reed says clearly upstate has some catching up to do in addressing the problem.

"When you take care of the tobacco issue, you are taking care of the cancer issue," she said.

The task has become more difficult in recent years, with funding for tobacco control programs in New York slashed in half.

Advocates say the state has to do better - lowering smoking rates lowers lung cancer death rates.

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