Montana Behind In Cancer Prevention

Aug 1, 2019

Montana is one of 18 states that fall short in cancer prevention, says a new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).

Nearly 6,000 Montanans will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 2,000 will die from the disease this year, according to ACS CAN. About half of U.S. cancer deaths could be prevented with knowledge we already have.

Montana Volunteer Legislative Ambassador Lois Fitzpatrick said everyone should be familiar with those stakes.

"We’ve all seen the impacts of this,” she said. “We’ve all seen the financial ruin. We’ve seen families break up.”

ACS CAN’s new report shows Montana could bring down those numbers in the future with improvements in a number of areas, including indoor tanning regulations. The advocacy group said it was disappointed to see a bill restricting tanning bed usage to those 18 and older failed to earlier this year.

"We would like to see a tanning bed bill,” Fitzpatrick said. “We know that will protect youth.”

Melanoma is the second most common cancer among women ages 15 to 29, according to the report, and the risk of getting it goes up 59% when a person uses an indoor tanning device before age 35. The advocacy group said the industry targets girls through back-to-school, prom and homecoming specials.

Fitzpatrick added higher cigarette taxes and expanded quitting services through Medicaid would go a long way towards cancer prevention in Montana. And, like most states, Montana would benefit from including e-cigarettes, which are seeing growing popularity among young people, in smoke-free laws.

The state received high marks in three areas, most notably in Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law in May. The report also recognized quality palliative care and effective smoke-free laws in the state.

Fitzpatrick said part of the group’s goal in releasing the report is to encourage awareness and advocacy among Montanans.

"I’m looking for an informed public, and I’m looking for an informed legislative body,” she said.

She said missed opportunities such as the failed indoor tanning bill could be prevented with more public feedback.