Online Report to the Minnesota Legislature: Fiscal Year 2023
The collection of Minnesota Cancer data was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number, NU58DP007128 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents of this work are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.
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Different cancers have different causes, treatments, and long- and short-term outcomes, but all cancers start with the uncontrolled growth of cells at a specific location or site within the body. The site where the cancer first started usually identifies the cancer type. For example, abnormal cells that started growing in the breast are called breast cancers. Unfortunately, cancer cells are able to spread to distant sites, away from where the cancer first started and this can have serious impacts on a person’s health, and their family and community.
Burden of cancer incidence and mortality in Minnesota
Cancers are much more common than most people realize, especially when considered in terms of lifetimes rather than as a yearly rate. Using current Minnesota cancer rates and average life expectancies, we estimate that about four people out of ten will be diagnosed with some type of cancer at some point in their lifetimes. Most of this "lifetime" risk of cancer occurs as we get older because cancer rates rise sharply with age. As we and our families, friends, and neighbors advance into middle age and beyond, we will begin to witness an increasing number of family members, other relatives, neighbors, and friends develop and, unfortunately, die from some type of cancer.
Examining the incidence (new cancers) and mortality (deaths) of all cancer sites combined is useful in describing the overall cancer burden in a population. This will give us a partial answer to the question, “How large of a public health problem is cancer in Minnesota?” Because different cancers have different causes, in looking at the trends for cancers combined we will not be able to gain an understanding of the factors that are linked to an increase or decrease in the chance of developing any individual cancer.
Examining the patterns of all cancers by population demographics (for example, age, sex, race and ethnicity) broadens our understanding of cancer as a public health problem. The number and rates of different cancers are different in males and females. Differences in the number of cancers and rates also exist by racial and ethnic groups, as well as by age groups. Understanding these differences can help inform effective and culturally appropriate cancer prevention and control programs.
Long-term trends in all cancers combined | Minnesota 1988-2019
The graph below shows how cancer rates have varied since 1988. Long term (32-year) trends in cancer incidence and mortality for all cancers are slightly different for males and females in Minnesota.
- Incidence: For males, the rate of new cancers has fluctuated up and down since 1988. Between 2007 and 2013, incidence decreased 2.5% per year. From 2013-2019 incidence rates increased 1.0% per year. By contrast, for females the rate of new cancers appears to gradually increase. Between 2004 and 2019, the rate for females increased 0.7% per year.
- Mortality: The rate of cancer deaths has decreased for both males and females. The declines over the 32-year period appear greater for males than females. More recently, for males, the rate of cancer deaths has decreased 1.9% per year since 2009. The rate of cancer deaths for females has decreased 1.4% per year since 2002.
Top 10 cancers for males and females | Minnesota | 2019
In 2019, four cancer sites were the most common new cancers diagnosed in Minnesota: prostate (males), breast (females), lung and bronchus, and melanomas of the skin. Additionally, lung and bronchus, prostate and breast cancers were the two leading causes of cancer death among Minnesota males and females in 2019. These cancers are strongly linked to modifiable lifestyle risk factors (e.g., smoking, diet, physical activity).
Short-term trends for leading cancer sites | Minnesota 2015-2019
The short-term trends in the incidence and mortality rates for individual cancer sites show wide variation, with some rates increasing, some decreasing, and others remaining stable. The charts below show short-term trends in the 10 most common new cancers and 10 most common cancer death for males and females.
Overall cancer rates by race/ethnicity | Minnesota 2015-2019
American Indian males and females had both the highest incidence and mortality rates for all cancers combined between 2015 and 2019. These results suggest the need for continued focused, appropriate cancer prevention and control efforts.
Top 5 cancers by race/ethnicity | Minnesota 2015-2019
The most frequently diagnosed cancers and cancer cause of death are not the same across Minnesota’s racial and ethnic populations.
Living with cancer
There were an estimated 282,000 Minnesotans diagnosed with cancer in the last 25 years who were alive as of January 1, 2019. This includes people with a new (or incident cancer) and those who survived a cancer diagnosed during the past 25 years.
Survivors of prostate and breast cancers represent 41% of these Minnesotans. By contrast, individuals who survived pancreas cancer represent only 0.6% of Minnesotans who were diagnosed with and survived their cancer between 1993 and 2018.
Incidence and mortality rates vary across counties in Minnesota for 2015-2019
Risk factors for cancer
Research has shown that age, genetics, obesity, certain exposures, and behaviors increase or decrease the chances of developing cancer.
- We have no control over some factors that affect cancer (age, genetics, family history, race). The National Cancer Institute’s interactive online tool Know Your Chances shows how these non-modifiable factors might affect the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases
- Researchers have shown that cancer risk is strongly influenced by lifestyle factors that we can control (1, 2, 3, 4). Such modifiable lifestyle risk account about 60% of cancer deaths in the U.S. Of note, half of cancer deaths have been attributed to just two risk factors - tobacco use (30%) and obesity (20%).
Early detection of cancer
Screening for certain cancers in people who do not already show signs or symptoms of cancer can reduce the risk of dying from those cancers. The goal of screening is to identify and treat specific cancers early in the course of disease when treatment is usually more effective compared to when they have spread to distant sites in the body. If the screening procedure removes an in situ cancer or pre-cancerous tissue from the cervix, breast, colon, or rectum, the procedure can prevent the cancer from occurring altogether.
For other MDH cancer resources visit MDH: Cancer
Other sources of cancer statistics
For MCRS cancer reports go to MCRS Cancer Statistics and Reports.
For MCRS data and queries to Minnesota Public Health Data Access portal.
For cancer statistics in the US, including Minnesota go to:
- National Cancer Institute-Cancer Statistics
- National Cancer Institute-State Cancer Profiles
- National Program of Cancer Registries
- Centers for Disease and Prevention online database-CDC WONDER
- United States Cancer Statistics: Data Visualizations
- Colditz G.A., Wei E.K. Relative Contributions of Biologic and Social and Physical Environmental Determinants of Cancer Mortality. Annual Review of Public Health, 2012;33:137-156.
- Doll R, Peto R. The Causes of Cancer: Quantitative Estimates of Avoidable Risks of Cancer in the United States Today. Journal of the National Cancer Institute; 1981, 66:6;1193-1308.
- Harvard Report on Cancer Prevention. Cancer Causes and Control, 1996, 7:S55-S58.
- Schottenfeld D, Beebe-Dimmer JL, Buffler PA, Omenn GS. Current Perspective on the Global and United States Cancer Burden Attributable to Lifestyle and Environmental Risk Factors. Annual Review of Public Health 2013, 34:97-117.
- American Cancer Society (ACS). March 14, 2022. Retrieved January 10, 2023, from American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC). May 19, 2022. Retrieved January 10, 2023 from Centers for Disease Control - Screening Tests.
SUGGESTED CITATION: Minnesota Cancer Reporting System. Cancer in Minnesota, 1988-2019. St Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Department of Health, www.health.state.mn.us/data/mcrs/cancerinmn.html, February 2023.