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Illinois geography plays a role in who gets lung cancer

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Lung cancer rates in central and southern Illinois are double those in the Chicagoland region, according to the American Lung Association.

Kristina Hamilton, who is advocacy director for the American Lung Association in Illinois, said smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer in the state.

”The smoking rates are higher in many of the counties where the lung cancer incidence rate is higher. We see a lot of correlation,’’ she said. "The smoking rate for the state of Illinois is about 15 percent. But in some of those counties with high lung cancer rates, we're seeing rates of 20 to almost 30 percent for smoking rates.”

She said individuals in mainly rural parts of southern and central Illinois have less access to lung cancer screening because there are fewer medical facilities performing the service.

Estimates are more than 9,000 people in Illinois will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year, and more than 5,000 will die from the disease. That’s according to the American Lung Association.

The group surveyed more than 4,000 U.S. residents and found that only 40 percent are concerned they will get lung cancer, which is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation.

“Early detection of the disease improves survival rates, and lung cancer screening is recommended for individuals who are at high risk,” she said.

Risk factors include smoking and factors such as exposure to radon, coal-fired power plants and industrial boilers.

Fewer than one third of those surveyed were aware lung cancer is the leading cancer killer in the United States.

In addition to smoking, some other risk factors include exposure to radon, coal-fired power plants and industrial boilers.

According to the Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) 2012, 18.6 percent of adults in Illinois are smokers and 2.5 percent use smokeless tobacco products.

The Illinois Department of Public Health funds the Illinois Tobacco Quitline (ITQL), which is operated by the American Lung Association. This partnership was formed in 2001 to provide free tobacco cessation services to those attempting to quit tobacco use.

Quitline staff can help cigarette, vaping, cigar, pipe, snuff and chew tobacco users. The number is 866-Quit-Yes.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.