Shared from the 2016-09-02 The State eEdition

SC scores at bottom of cancer prevention ranking


South Carolina got low scores on an American Cancer Society ranking of states for its cancer prevention programs. The report looks at 10 policy indicators.

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South Carolina got low scores on an American Cancer Society ranking of states for its cancer prevention programs.

The report looks at 10 policy indicators, such as tobacco taxes, smoke-free laws, indoor tanning restrictions for minors, funding for cancer screening and tobacco prevention and cessation programs, and increased access to health care through Medicaid.

It scores each state on a color-coded system: red is falling short, yellow reflects some progress and green means the state is doing well.

South Carolina – which got a red on nine of the 10 indicators and a yellow on the last – is one of two states that failed to measure up on any of the 10 areas ranked in the report.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in the way we diagnose and treat cancer across the country,” said Nancy Cheney, South Carolina’s government relations director for the society’s Cancer Action Network.

“But to leverage this progress, South Carolina legislators must take advantage of the opportunities to pass evidence-based laws and policies that are proven to save lives and money,” she said. “We can’t wait to take action when the stakes are that high.”

Statewide, some 27,980 people will be diagnosed with cancer this year and 10,330 will die from it, she said.

Mike Byrd, president of the South Carolina Cancer Alliance, said one of the reasons the state scored so low is because the ACS report takes state funding for prevention programs into account and the Palmetto State spends less than other states.

SMOKING IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ABOUT ONE IN EVERY FIVE DEATHS, ACCORDING TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA TOBACCO-FREE COLLABORATIVE.

But there are other reasons as well. For example, he said, South Carolina’s low cigarette tax.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the country, resulting in a variety of cancers, heart disease, stroke and other conditions, according to the National Cancer Institute.

And lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, killing more people than cancers of the breast, colon and prostate combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

Smoking is responsible for about one in every five deaths, according to the South Carolina Tobacco-Free Collaborative. And tobacco costs the state $1.9 billion a year in health care costs.

At 57 cents a pack, South Carolina’s cigarette tax is among the lowest in the nation, ranking 44th, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The average is $1.61 a pack.

But a higher cigarette tax serves as a deterrent to youth smoking and tobacco use.

“One of the most effective things we can do is increase the cigarette tax,” Byrd said. “It’s a real opportunity for the state and legislature to make real progress in cancer prevention.”

South Carolina has made some headway in implementing smoke-free laws at the local level, he said. The Alliance also advocates for lung cancer screening, for more state funding for breast and cervical cancer screening, for the HPV vaccine to reduce cervical cancer and other initiatives designed to prevent cancers, he said.

Only four states met six of the 10 benchmarks and Maine and Massachusetts are the only two states to meet seven of the 10.

“As advocates, we’ve worked hard to educate South Carolinians about ways to prevent and treat cancer,” Cheney said, “but our voice is not enough if state and local policymakers don’t take action to fund and implement state policies and programs that are proven to save lives.”

Byrd said that while the state has made progress in preventing cancer, it also has a long way to go.

“Treatment of cancer is really important,” he said. “But it’s much better to focus on prevention.”

To read the full report, go to www.acscan.org.

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