Rural Disparities in Cancer

Despite progress in the detection and treatment of cancer, the disease is still the second-leading cause of death in the United States.

Rural communities experience a higher cancer burden

People living in rural areas
experience higher cancer mortality rates
than urban areas

One study found an 8% higher all-cancer mortality and an almost 20% higher lung cancer mortality in rural communities

American Indian and Alaska Native, a community that is more likely to live in rural communities, experienced an increase in cancer mortality from 1990 to 2009 while other populations saw a decrease

For pancreatic cancer, a study found significantly lower rates of early stage diagnosis for patients living in rural areas. While lack of primary medical care resources was an important factor, rural residence was an independent predictor of later stage of diagnosis

Why Cancer Has a Greater Impact on Rural Communities

There are many factors at play:

Older average age of rural populations:

Studies show senior citizens are 11 times more likely to develop cancer compared to younger individuals, and about 17.5% of rural Americans are over the age of 65 compared to just 13.8% in urban areas.

Lack of access to quality care delays diagnosis and treatment:

Rural Americans live an average of 10.5 miles from the nearest hospital, compared to suburbanites who live an average of 5.6 miles away, and urbanites live an average of 4.4 miles away.

Other risk factors:

People living in rural areas are more likely to have exposures or other risk factors that put them at higher risk for cancer.