New Report Finds More Than a Quarter of States Falling Short on Cancer Policies

June 6, 2007

BOSTON -- August 7, 2007 -- More than a quarter of states are not measuring up in the fight against cancer, according to a new report evaluating state legislative activity on cancer policy issues.  The report, developed by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) in collaboration with its sister charitable organization, the American Cancer Society, found that 15 states met the benchmark on one or fewer out of seven areas examined in the report.

No state met the benchmark in all seven legislative issues critical to reducing cancer incidence and death. Only one state Connecticut even came close, meeting ACS CAN’s and the Society’s benchmark on just five out of seven issues.  Five states Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah -- did not meet the benchmark on any of the seven issues and another 10 received high marks on only one issue.

How Do You Measure Up? A Progress Report on State Legislative Activity to Reduce Cancer Incidence and Mortality was released today at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting in Boston.
“With the number of cancer deaths declining for the second year in a row, we’ve made great progress in the fight against cancer,” said Laura J. Hilderley, RN, MS, volunteer chair of the ACS CAN board. “Further progress requires our state legislators to make fighting cancer a priority.  It’s time for all state legislators to do their part by enacting state legislation critical to defeating this deadly disease.”

The report identified seven issues on which individual states can take action to fight cancer: access to breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income, uninsured and underinsured women; access to care for the uninsured; access to screening for colorectal cancer (commonly known as colon cancer); preserving private insurance coverage for cancer screenings; smoke-free workplaces; tobacco excise taxes; and cancer pain management.

Nearly half of the country met ACS CAN’s and the Society’s benchmark of raising the tobacco excise tax to $1.00.  Increasing tobacco excise taxes reduces tobacco consumption, and studies have consistently shown that for every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes, there is a decrease of 3 to 5 percent in adult smoking and 6 to 7 percent in youth smoking.

Other findings detailed in the report:

  • Only 13 states have uninsured rates below 15 percent.
  • Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have met the Society’s benchmark for preserving private insurance coverage for cancer screenings.
  • Only 11 states met ACS CAN and the Society’s benchmark on cancer pain management policy and practice.
  • Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws that ensure private insurance coverage for the full range of colon cancer screening tests.

A copy of the report is available online at

The report also features a section on expanding access to care.  The Society recently issued four principles that define meaningful health insurance and highlight major problems in the health care system that are impeding progress against cancer and other major diseases.  As part of their ongoing efforts to improve access to quality care for those with cancer, the Society and ACS CAN will apply the four principles to state and federal health insurance reform proposals to determine whether the proposals would improve health care for the uninsured and underinsured.

This year, more than 1.4 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer and another 559,650 will die from the disease.

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit

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