Cigarette photo via Shutterstock

Upstate New Yorkers might see more stars and breathe fresher air, but according to a new report, they also have a higher rate of lung cancer than New York City residents. The new study from the American Cancer Society (ACS) reveals that despite our not-always-so-clean air, NYC actually has lower lung cancer rates than the rest of the state. As you might have surmised, smoking is a major factor in the difference, with smoking rates in the city at about 14 percent compared to more than 20 percent upstate. It wasn’t always that way though – smoking has actually decreased by 27 percent in NYC since Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his administration banned the practice in bars, restaurants, offices, and parks – so we have to give credit where credit is due.

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“While environmental factors undoubtedly play a role, personal behaviors are much more likely to increase your risk of cancer,” said Russell Sciandra, advocacy director for the ACS of NY and NJ, at a press conference. “Smoking accounts for at least 30 percent of cancer deaths, and both smoking rates and overall cancer rates are higher upstate than in New York City and surrounding counties. We can attribute the lower rates to especially vigilant efforts by New York City and the adjoining suburban counties to reduce tobacco use among their residents.”

Unfortunately, the report, called The Cancer Burden in New York State, found one group whose smoking rates have not gone done: the poor and uneducated.

“The decline in smoking has not occurred among the poor – those least able to afford the cost of cigarettes and the consequences of addiction,” according to the report. “Smoking among those with less than a high school education was unchanged between 2000 and 2010, a period during which tobacco use significantly declined among all other groups with more education. Those with less than a high school education now smoke at a rate three times greater than that of college graduates. Those with incomes below $25,000 have the highest smoking rates, and smoking prevalence among the very poorest is practically unchanged in 10 years.”

The report also says that more than 107,000 New Yorkers were diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and more than 34,000 died from the disease. Lung cancer is the largest cancer killer, causing nearly 9,000 deaths.

Data for the report was gathered from the NYS Department of Health Cancer Registry and the American Cancer Society Cancer Facts & Figures 2011. The report recommends more policies and laws that prevent cancer and funding the NYS Cancer Services program that provides free breast, cervical and colon cancer screenings to the uninsured.

Read the full report here.

Photos © NYC Coalition for a Smoke-Free City