New research finds disproportionate impact of cancer on rural communities

New research finds disproportionate impact of cancer on rural communities
February 3rd, 2023 | National Grange

The National Grange released a report that reveals new details about the rural-urban disparity in cancer outcomes.

The research, which was sponsored by the National Grange and conducted by the data analytics firm Xcenda sheds new light on the rural-urban disparity in cancer mortality, diagnosis, and screenings in the United States.

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers found cancer deaths in rural areas is 14% higher than in urban areas and that this urban-rural disparity is worsening nationwide. The report also examined disparities in four states: Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas – all of which have significant populations living in both rural and urban areas which made for a more straightforward comparison.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Nationwide, the disparity in the rate of cancer deaths between rural and urban counties increased between 2011-2015 and 2016-2020, despite the overall cancer death rate decreasing – a trend that was also reflected in Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas.
  • The 5-year cancer survival rate for all cancers was 8% lower in rural areas compared to urban areas.
    Rural areas are behind urban areas when it comes to getting preventive screenings.
  • Concerning colon and lung cancer specifically, the rates of both cancers found at late-stages were higher in rural areas than urban areas.

The full study results can be viewed here.

“This research demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure equitable cancer outcomes for rural America,” said Burton Eller, Executive Director of Grange Advocacy at the Grange. “Addressing this disparity will require greater availability of early cancer detection in rural America, including expanded access to routine screenings as well as access to new cancer detection technologies that are just becoming available.”

The best health outcomes related to cancer are linked to early detection. Routine screenings for breast, colorectal, cervical, prostate, and lung cancer have been successful in catching cancer early and saving lives. In addition, a large bipartisan group in Congress is working to advance access to new screening tools like multi-cancer early detection (MCED), which can detect dozens of deadly cancers through a simple blood test. These technologies can be administered in any care setting and can offer hope for reducing rural cancer disparities, and the proposal has garnered substantial support from members of Congress with large rural constituencies.

“As we recognize World Cancer Day, the National Grange is calling on policymakers to prioritize the health of rural Americans and commit to ensuring access to the tools needed to address cancer disparities.” Eller continued, “This includes advancing policies like the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act which enjoys broad bipartisan support and prevents seniors in rural communities from facing unnecessary access delays to new multi-cancer screening tools once they are approved by the FDA.”


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