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Data visualization by IHME of mortality rates for 2014.
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By Diane Mapes

As with many studies, there was good news and bad news.

The good news:  Public health researchers from the University of Washington looked at cancer’s mortality rate county by county and found that overall, deaths from the disease dropped 20 percent during the last 35 years, falling from 240 deaths per 100,000 people in 1980 to 192 deaths per 100,000 people in 2014.

The bad news: There are definite “winners” and “losers” when it comes to surviving cancer. And as usual, the losers are our most vulnerable citizens: the poor, the uneducated and the marginalized.

“As a country, cancer’s mortality rate is coming down and that’s something we should be proud of,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, lead author of the study released Tuesday by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. “But when we start examining it at the county level, where public health policies begin, we see many counties are not sharing the same benefits. They are falling behind when it comes to the progress the country is making.”

Mokdad said he and his colleagues had expected some health disparities to be reflected in the data, but they were “shocked by the levels between the highest and the lowest.”  

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