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Indiana 6th In Lung Cancer Cases, Experts Say State Action Necessary To Improve

Indiana has the sixth-highest rate in the country when it comes to new lung cancer cases, according to the recent State of Lung Cancer 2020 report by theAmerican Lung Association

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The report offers data and topics aimed at helping decrease the number of cases in each state. Utah currently has the lowest number of cases, while Kentucky has the highest. 

The Indiana chapter of the American Lung Association estimates that about 5,700 Hoosiers will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. 

Advocacy director for the Indiana chapter of the American Lung Association, Nick Torres, said smoking has remained consistent in Indiana, and may have increased during the pandemic. He said screenings that help with early detection, like a lot of other medical procedures, have been put on hold due to fears of COVID-19.

Torres said while early detection is important, the real key to lowering lung cancer in Indiana rests with reducing smoking altogether. 

“We as a state can do better by simply lowering our smoking rates. That’s the biggest risk factor for us as far as lung cancer,” Torres said. 

He said gathering as much data as possible regarding survival rates could also shine a light on how to best approach messaging around the issue of lung cancer, smoking and smoking cessation. Indiana does not currently track survivability rates. 

“So we want to make sure we are also tracking survivability. It just gives us one more data point to show things that we can work on, things that work well when it comes to lung cancer treatment and diagnosis in the state,” Torres said.

He said Indiana is one of four states that doesn’t have this data, and in other states, survivability rates have been helpful in identifying disparities in prevention and treatment for minority communities around the state. He said paying attention to that data would also help increase survival rates. 

Torres said steps like creating smoke-free environments in businesses like casinos and bars is a step in the right direction. But he says raising cigarette taxes would have the most impact, and is a big focus for the Indiana chapter of the American Lung Association in the upcoming legislative session, as it has been the last five years. 

“In Indiana, we have very cheap tobacco products across the board,” Torres said. “The cigarette tax being the lowest in our region, that’s an area we can look to right away and say, if we are able to raise the price of these products, we know that will lead to more people quitting smoking and especially super young people not picking up the habit.”

Torres said Indiana should also invest in media campaigns, and other resources such as the the Quitting Hotline. He said media campaigns, especially like the ones in the '90s and early 2000s, were impactful and would compete with cigarette companies and their media.

Contact reporter Bárbara at banguiano@lakeshorepublicmedia or follow her on Twitter at @radiospice219.