NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WRKN) — Tennessee is one of the worst states in the nation for lung cancer rates, the American Lung Association says.

According to the 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report, Tennessee ranked 45th, making the state among the worst in the country, indicating more work is needed to reduce the burden of lung cancer, the association said.

The 2023 report is the ALA’s sixth annual report and highlights the toll of lung cancer in Tennessee and examines key indicators including new cases, survival, early diagnosis, surgical treatment, lack of treatment and screening rates.

The report also found that Tennessee’s Black community is least likely to receive treatment and that the state ranked 49th in percentage of adults who are smokers.

“Lung cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer deaths here in Tennessee and across the nations, and our recent report makes it clear that we have more work to do to lower smoking rates, get high-risk individuals screened and address the health disparities in our Black community,” said Shannon Baker, Advocacy Director for the Lung Association in Tennessee.

According to the report, the Volunteer State is 45th out of 48 for new lung cancer rates at 70 cases for 100,000. The national rate is 54.6 out of 100,000.

Tennessee also ranked:

  • 33 out of 42 in the nation for survival at just 23.6%, compared to the national rate of 26.6%
  • 31 out of 47 in the nation for early diagnosis at 25.9%, compared to 26.6% nationally
  • 30 out of 51 for lung cancer screening at 4.2%, compared to 4.5% nationally
  • 33 out of 47 for surgery at 18%, compared to 20.8% nationally
  • 10 out of 47 for lack of treatment at 17.4%, compared to 20.6% of cases with no treatment nationally

The Lung Association in Tennessee has called on state lawmakers to increase funding for the Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Program to $13 million in its upcoming budget. Currently at $2.6 million, state funding is only 5.6% of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of $75.6 million. The recommended increase would be a “significant step in the right direction to help prevent tobacco use initiation and to support Tennesseans who want to quit,” according to the group.

To that end, the association is also asking Tennesseans to contact their congressional representatives in support of H.R. 4286, the “Increasing Access to Lung Cancer Screening Act.” The bill, filed by Rep. Brian Higgins (D‑NY-26) and Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL-14), would:

  • Provide coverage without cost-sharing for lung cancer screening as recommended by USPSTF to the traditional Medicaid population
  • Provide coverage for tobacco cessation as recommended by the USPSTF to the traditional Medicaid population
  • Eliminate prior authorization requirements for lung cancer screening for Medicare and private insurers
  • Establish a $10 million lung cancer screening education and outreach campaign at the Department of Health and Human Services, and
  • Require a GAO report on the population diagnosed with lung cancer but not recommended for screening

Despite Tennessee’s bleak outlook, the ALA says the report also found that lung cancer survival rates are improving for everyone, including people of color, with the five-year cancer survival rate for people of color increasing by 17% in the last two years.