Northeast Regional Cancer Institute
Cancer Surveillance and Risk Factors Study Summary
2001 – 2005

The Northeast Regional Cancer Institute aims to ease the burden of cancer in northeast Pennsylvania. By looking at local cancer data in the six-county area defined as NEPA, which includes Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Wyoming Counties, the Cancer Institute can address cancer disparities.

Dr. Samuel M. Lesko, M.D., M.P.H., Medical Director and Director of Research at Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, conducted a study reviewing local cancer data and examined data on risk factors and screening behaviors.

Cancer surveillance was conducted using registry data from the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute’s population-based Regional Cancer Registry, the Pennsylvania Cancer Registry, and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program. For common cancers, incidence and mortality were examined by county within the region and compared to data for similar populations in the U.S.

Study results identified several cancers with unusually high incidence and mortality rates. The study concluded that incidence rates for cancers of the lung, colon, and rectum, bladder, uterus, kidney, thyroid, esophagus, and larynx were higher than expected in NEPA, during a five year time period from 2001-05.

Breast, prostate, melanoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, and liver cancer incidence rates were lower than expected in NEPA in the same five year time period.

“We don’t exactly know why incidence for some cancers are higher than expected and others are lower than expected. I suspect that our high prevalence of tobacco use may increase our risk for tobacco-related cancer,” said Dr. Lesko. “An analysis of cancer risk factors documented that cigarette smoking was significantly more common in NEPA than in Pennsylvania or the U.S. In fact, 28.3% of adults in NEPA are smokers.”

“Lack of regular exercise, a high prevalence of obesity, and diets low in fiber and high in fat were observed in our study and may increase risk for some cancers,” said Dr. Lesko.

The study also concluded that thyroid cancer incidence is increasing rapidly in our area and in the country as a whole.

“This is a cancer of interest, and I continue to look for funding opportunities to take a closer look at what is happening specifically in NEPA,” said Dr. Lesko.

Until researchers can determine why certain cancers have an increased or decreased incidence and/or mortality rates, it is important that individuals schedule regular appointments with their healthcare provider and continue to stay current with the recommended screenings.