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News Release

February 07, 2017

Lung cancer is leading cause of cancer deaths in Hawaii

HONOLULU – Native Hawaiian women and men have the highest cancer mortality rate according to Hawai'i Cancer at a Glance 2009-2013, the latest statewide cancer data released by the Hawai'i Tumor Registry (HTR) of the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center. Cancer incidence and death varies substantially across Hawai'i's five largest racial and ethnic groups (Chinese, Filipinos, Native Hawaiians, Japanese, and Whites).

"Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death in Hawai'i. Native Hawaiian men and women have the highest lung cancer incidence and mortality rates in the state," said Dr. Brenda Hernandez, principal investigator of the Hawai'i Tumor Registry. "It is critical that we maintain and evaluate Hawai'i's cancer data, so we can continue to address the ethnic and racial disparities here in our communities."

"The HTR's Cancer at a Glance allows us and other organizations in our state to do research specific to the needs of our residents in Hawai'i and the Pacific," said Dr. Randall Holcombe, UH Cancer Center director. "Over the past 30 years cancer mortality rates have steadily decreased in both men and women in Hawai'i. We want to make sure less people die from this disease."

From 2004-2013 significant changes in Hawai'i were identified for certain cancers
  • Over the past decade (2004 to 2013), overall cancer incidence declined (1.6 percent per year) in men and increased (0.4 percent per year) in women; overall cancer mortality rates decreased in both men and women.
  • Cancers of the thyroid, kidney and renal pelvis, liver and intrahepatic bile duct, myeloma, soft tissue (including heart), leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and pancreas increased among men and women. In addition, cancer of the testis increased among men and cancers of the breast, lung & bronchus, uterus/endometrium, vulva, and anus as well as melanoma increased among women.
Overview of Cancer in Hawai'i
  • Each year, approximately 6,700 Hawai'i residents are diagnosed with invasive cancer.
  • More than 2,200 Hawai'i residents die of cancer each year.
  • Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death (after cardiovascular disease) in Hawai'i residents.
  • In 2016, there were more than 58,000 Hawai'i residents living with cancer including those newly diagnosed and those diagnosed with invasive cancer in the past.
Top Cancers in Hawai'i
  • The most common cancer in men is prostate cancer, which accounts for 22 percent of cases, followed by cancers of the lung & bronchus, colon & rectum, melanoma of the skin, and bladder tumors. In women, breast cancer is the most common cancer, comprising 33 percent of cases, followed by cancers of the lung and bronchus, colon and rectum, uterus/ endometrium, and thyroid.
  • The leading cause of cancer mortality in men and women is lung & bronchus cancer.
Comparison of cancer in Hawai'i and the U.S.
  • In 2009-2013, Hawai'i incidence rates were significantly higher than the U.S. overall for cancers of the breast, colon and rectum, liver and intrahepatic bile duct, pancreas, stomach, thyroid, and uterus/endometrium.
  • In 2009-2013, mortality rates for cancers of the liver & intrahepatic bile duct, thyroid, and stomach were significantly higher in Hawai'i compared to the U.S. overall.
  • Among all U.S. states, Hawai'i ranks number one for stomach cancer incidence and mortality, number one for thyroid cancer mortality, and number two for liver & intrahepatic bile duct cancer incidence.

Hawai'i Tumor Registry
The HTR is one of only 20 National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Programs nationwide. SEER is the premier source for cancer statistics in the United States. The HTR provides complete and confidential cancer reporting for the entire state as experts in collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating reliable population-based statistics. The data published by HTR are published and used for local, national and international research efforts. The Registry's database contains more cancer cases of Native Hawaiians than any other registry nationwide. The racially-diverse and unique population resource has been invaluable in demonstrating ethnic variations in cancer incidence and survival.

"A registry since 1960, the HTR has played a vital role in cancer control and research efforts in Hawai'i by monitoring cancer trends over time, and identifying variations in cancer risk across the multi-ethnic populations of the state," said Michael Green, Hawai'i Tumor Registry project director.

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