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Colorado receives middling grades in new cancer report

August 8, 2017 Updated: August 8, 2017 at 7:30 pm
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photo - (AP stock photo)
(AP stock photo) 

Colorado officials could be doing more to "prevent and reduce suffering and death from cancer" via policy and legislation, according to a new report by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Of the nine areas of public policy examined in the report - including cigarette tax rates, Medicaid coverage of tobacco cessation and access to palliative care - Colorado's practices fell short of ideal in a third, are making "some progress" in four and were commended for "doing well" in two.

"This 15th edition of the report shows just how far we've come in the last decade and a half passing policies proven to reduce suffering and death from cancer," R.J. Ours, the organization's government relations director, said in a statement. "But, now is certainly not the time to rest on our laurels. This year alone in Colorado, 24,330 people will be diagnosed with cancer, and nearly 8,000 will die from the disease.

"We owe it to them, and everyone at risk of developing the disease, to do what we know works to prevent cancer and improve access to screenings and treatment."

The report, titled "How Do You Measure Up? A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality," looks at areas of opportunity for policy and legislation that could prevent cancer from occurring, as well as ease the suffering of those who have been diagnosed.

It also examines the state's policy toward pain medication, looking for "balance." In this area, Colorado is "making progress," the report's authors state.

The areas in which Colorado shines, according to the report: increasing access to Medicaid and breast and cervical cancer early detection.

The areas in which it rated the lowest: cigarette tax rates, indoor tanning device restrictions and access to palliative care.

Both state and national cancer rates have decreased over the past 15 years, and Colorado's diagnosis and mortality rates are below the national average, according to the "2016-2020 Colorado Cancer Plan," produced by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Risk factors contributing to cancer diagnosis rates in Colorado include tobacco use, HPV immunizations, radon, genetics, age and poverty, according to the state's report.

Some of Colorado's recent cancer-related policy achievements, as outlined in the report, include securing the voter passage of a 2004 amendment that increased taxes on tobacco to fund health care services and education programs, as well as funding colorectal cancer screenings from 2006-2015.

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