Douglas County was 25th on the list of most cancer-prone counties in Oregon, in the state in statistics from 2012 to 2016, according to recent figures from the Oregon Health Authority.
That means the county has the 10th lowest rate of cancer among the 33 individual counties plus three counties lumped together.
Douglas County reported 405.3 cases of cancer diagnoses per 100,000 residents. There were 187.7 cancer deaths per 100,000. The county was significantly lower than the state rate of 427.2 cases and 162.8 deaths per 100,000.
“We’ve made improvements overall,” said Dr. Randy Moore, a radiation oncologist at the Community Cancer Center in Roseburg. “I was surprised at how well we’ve done in screening, but there is certainly a lot of room for improvement.”
The most prevalent cancer in Douglas County was female breast cancer at 102.1 diagnoses per 100,000 with 101 deaths reported. The county tied for the fourth lowest in the state in that category. The state average was 124.5 cases with 2,703 deaths attributed to cancer.
The second most common cancer in the county was prostate cancer for men with 97.3 diagnoses per 100,000 and 101 deaths reported. The county didn’t do so well in that category, with the fifth highest rate in the state.
The third most common was lung cancer with 60.7 diagnoses per 100,000. the county had the eighth highest rate of lung cancer in the state with 503 deaths attributed to the disease. The state average was 54.3 cases of lung cancer per 100,000 residents.
Moore said the number of lung cancer cases in the county was disturbing.
“For some reason, our breast cancer is lower than the state average, our prostate cancer is higher than the state average, and our lung cancer is quite a bit higher than the state average,” he said.
The state’s most frequently diagnosed cancer was also female breast cancer with Oregon averaging 115 cases per 100,000, followed by prostate cancer at 86.2 per 100,000.
Moore said obesity and tobacco are two large risk factors for cancer, but they are modifiable lifestyle factors. Moore said about 99% of the patients that he treats for lung cancer are smokers. The other 1%, he said, can be attributed to genetics and secondhand smoke.
“There are good numbers to show that the further you go out from stopping smoking, the cancer incidence rates go down, so the sooner you stop, the longer the benefits are going to be, not just in lung cancer but in quality of life issues,” Moore said.
Moore said it’s important to get the screenings recommended by the American Cancer Society and living a healthy and active lifestyle reduces chances of getting cancer.
Harney County had the lowest cancer rates in the state with 320 diagnoses per 100,000. Malheur, Baker and Wallowa counties, all from remote rural areas with low populations, were right behind Harney County.
The 10 counties with the highest rates of cancer, were scattered between rural and urban areas and not concentrated in any particular portion of the state.
The county with the highest incidence of new cancer cases was Wheeler County, which only has 1,450 residents.
Clatsop County had the second highest rate in the state, followed by Crook, Clackamas, and the most populous county in the state, Multnomah.