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Report: Utah Falls Short in Cancer-Prevention Policies

A lack of policies to regulate the use of tanning beds contributes to low marks for Utah in a new report on cancer policies. (jdurham/morguefile)
A lack of policies to regulate the use of tanning beds contributes to low marks for Utah in a new report on cancer policies. (jdurham/morguefile)
August 18, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY – A new report says Utah falls short when it comes to supporting policies and passing legislation to prevent suffering and deaths from cancer.

The annual rankings from the American Cancer Society look at each state's progress in public policies regarding tobacco use and prevention, and access to care, ranking them as green for doing well, yellow for making progress and red for falling short.

Brook Carlisle, Utah government relations director for the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, says the Utah State Legislature's failure to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid hinders access to care for low-income patients.

"Obviously, Utah is ‘red’ when it came to access to care, Medicaid expansion,” she states. “I don't know of any concrete proposals for the 2017 legislative session, though that's not to say that there won't be some that come up between now and then."

Carlisle says in 2016, more than 11,000 Utahns will be diagnosed with cancer and for almost 3,000, it will be fatal.

The report says Utah's policies fall short on tobacco control, indoor tanning, breast and cervical cancer screenings and palliative care. It also says the state needs work on tobacco cessation programs and cancer pain control.

Carlisle says Utah did receive 'green' rankings for tobacco excise taxes, smoke-free laws and fairness in administering oral chemotherapy.

She credits Utah's anti-tobacco policies for the state having one of the lowest smoking rates in the country, and says her group will advocate in the next legislative session to improve access to pain medications for cancer patients.

"I know that not only in Utah but across the country, with the opioid abuse problem, there will be some legislation dealing with opioids and pain policy,” she states. “I don't know the details of that, but I do know that there will be something."

Carlisle says cancer kills more than 1,600 people every day in the United States. She says most states fared poorly in the report, with only two – Maine and Massachusetts – meeting benchmarks in at least seven of the 10 categories.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - UT