Study shows California ranks one of best in nation for new lung cancer cases

The number is welcome news for California, but the report also shows the state still has work to do.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The American Lung Association released its "State of Lung Cancer Report" for 2021.

California ranks third among all states, placing it in the "above average" tier. The report shows that the rate of new lung cancer cases for California is 41 per 100,000 people -- lower than the national average of 58 new cases per 100,000 people.

The number is welcome news for the American Lung Association (ALA) in California, but the report also shows the state still has work to do.

"The biggest thing is we really need to increase screenings for Californians," explained Erica Costa, ALA advocacy director. "Currently only 22.6 of eligible residents in California get screened for lung cancer."

The report also shows 27% of cases of lung cancer do not get treatment, ranking California 46th in the country.

"Black Americans are least likely to get surgery, and surgery is the best way to defeat this disease," Costa said. "So we really have some disparities that we want to work on."

According to Costa, it comes down to a lack of education about the disease and who is eligible for a screening, which is covered by Medicaid.

She said the eligibility for a low dose CT scan includes being 50 to 80 years old, having a 20-pack-year history and are currently a smoker or quitting in the last 15 years.

However, lung cancer isn't limited to smokers.

"There are people who get it who don't smoke, and there are people who are exposed to second-hand smoke," said Costa.

California aims to become a smoke-free state by 2035.

Fresno County is joining in on that effort. Just one month ago, the Fresno City Council passed an ordinance banning smoking in multi-unit housing, starting January of 2022.

"That's an effort to protect tenants and residents from unwanted secondhand exposure drifting into their units," said Raul Gonzalez, with the Fresno County Tobacco Prevention Program.

Air pollution is also a known factor for lung cancer.

Reports show the Valley has some of the most polluted cities in the country.

The Valley Air District encourages residents to take action to protect themselves but also help reduce the amount of pollution.

"We'll give you grant money for electric lawn care equipment, for a new gas device in your home to replace your fireplace or wood-burning device, or even electric vehicles," said Jamie Holt. "We'll give you some money to trade out your old vehicle for an electric vehicle."

These are just a few of the efforts happening locally to protect residents from one of the most common cancers in the world.

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