Cancer is a group of diseases and not just one disease but many different diseases, with more than 100 different types. There are many risk factors that can affect the cancer in ways that are not fully understood. Cancer is one of the most common chronic diseases in United States, second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death.
The following pages have information about specific cancers. The cancers with the image were recently added in March 2012.
Information and Resources
[Print page (PDF, 23 KB)]
- What is cancer?
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up many parts of the body. When new cells form, but the body doesn't need them, and old or damaged cells don't die as they should, the buildup of these cells often forms a mass of tissue called a lump, growth, or tumor.
Tumors in the body can be benign (not cancer) or malignant (cancer). Benign tumors are not as harmful as malignant tumors. The benign tumors often can be removed and usually don't grow back and don't spread to other parts of the body. The malignant tumors may be a threat to life and often can be removed but sometimes grow back. These tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body, called a metastasis.
- What is WI EPHT focusing on within cancer?
The WI EPHT program is examining a set of cancers that was selected by a national workgroup based on the following criteria:
* Scientific basis for environmental risk factors
* Geographic variability or temporal trend in cancer incidence
* Short latency cancer
* Attributable risk
* Feasibility of obtaining relevant environmental data
* Possibility of public health or environmental intervention
* Frequency (incidence rate)
The WI EPHT system contains information and data about the following cancers:
- How is cancer related to the environment?
The evidence is building to support a link between cancer and exposures to environmental pollutants. Some environmental exposure is potentially avoidable. For example, exposures related to tobacco smoking, can be avoided with behavioral changes. Other environmental factors are less controllable such as carcinogenic compounds released into the ambient air. Furthermore, some risk factors are unavoidable such as age, race or other genetic susceptibilities. It is important to remember that having a risk factor only increases the chances that a person will develop cancer, it does not mean the individual will for sure develop cancer. Also, many people who develop cancer do not have many or any of the currently known risk factors.
- How can tracking cancer improve public health?
Scientists have shown trends in cancer that sometimes correlate with the presence of certain environmental pollutants. This correlation does not rule out other causes but does suggest that environmental factors may increase the risk for particular cancers.
The study of associations between cancers and environmental pollutants is complicated. Studies have documented that it may take as long as 40 years for some cancers to develop after exposure to some substances, depending on the type of cancer and exposure. WI EPHT will help identify contributing environmental risk factors through standardized surveillance methods that continue over extended periods of time that are comparable across many geographic areas.
- What are the causes of cancer?
The cause of many cancer types is unknown and likely determined by the combined effects of multiple factors. However, major risk factors for cancer include tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise and sun exposure. Genetic factors also appear to play a role in some types of cancer.
Although environmental pollution has been a source of great public concern for decades, there have only been a few well-studied cases of environmental exposures at the community-level. The cancer risks associated with many environmental chemicals are based on studies in the workplace, where exposures are often much greater than they would be in the general public. These earlier studies provide the foundation for building evidence that supports a link between cancers and exposures to environmental pollutants.
Some environmental exposure is potentially avoidable. For example, exposures related to tobacco smoking, can be avoided with behavioral changes. Other environmental factors are less controllable such as carcinogenic compounds released into the ambient air. Furthermore, some risk factors are unavoidable such as age, race or other genetic susceptibilities. It is important to remember that having a risk factor only increases the chances that a person will develop cancer, it does not mean the individual will for sure develop cancer. Also, many people who develop cancer do not have many or any of the currently known risk factors.
- How can you prevent cancer?
Making lifestyle choices and taking precautions at home and in the workplace to reduce potentially harmful exposures can help prevent cancer. The following are general recommendations for reducing your risk for cancer:
* Do not smoke, dip, or chew tobacco, and avoid secondhand smoke
* Eat a diet rich in fruits or vegetables
* Maintain a healthy weight
* Limit alcohol consumption
* Be physically active
* Discuss with your doctor other specific recommendations, particularly if you have a family history of cancer.
- Where can I find more about cancer?
Below are resources to additional information about cancer.
* Wisconsin Department of Health Services
* National Cancer Institute
* Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
* Surveillance Epidemiology End Results
All external hyperlinks are provided for your information and for the benefit of the general public. The Department of Health Services does not testify to, sponsor, or endorse the accuracy of the information provided on externally linked pages.
PDF: The free Adobe Reader® software is needed to view and print portable document format (PDF) files. Learn more.
Last Revised: December 05, 2012
Access the data about specific cancers in the WI EPHT online database. For more information about the cancer data, go to the Data Details below to learn about interpreting the data.
The WI EPHT online database has data about specific cancers:
- Brain and Central Nervous System
- Female Breast
- Kidney and Renal
- Leukemia--Acute Lymphocytic
- Leukemia--Acute Myelogenous
- Leukemia--Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
- Oral Cavity and Pharyngeal
- Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
What is the data source?
The website provides data from the Wisconsin Cancer Reporting System, which is maintained by the Office of Health Informatics, Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
How does WI EPHT measure cancer?
The WI EPHT website includes the following measures:
- counts for each cancer type
- age adjusted rate for each cancer type
What are some considerations for interpreting the data?
While significant effort is made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the data, there are limitations that are listed below:
- Reporting may be less complete from rural versus urban areas of the state.
- Reporting may be less complete for cases where diagnosis and/or treatment occurs in a different state.
- Reporting completeness is different depending on the type of cancer.
There are many factors that can contribute to a disease and should be considered when interpreting the data. Some of these include:
- Demographics, e.g., race, gender, age
- Socioeconomic Status, e.g., income level, education
- Geographic, e.g., urban vs. rural
- Changes in the medical field, e.g., diagnosis patterns, reporting requirements
- Individual behavior, e.g., diet, smoking