Tulsa County has the second highest rate of cancer in the state, according to the annual state of the state’s health report the Oklahoma State Department of Health released last week.
The county also performs poorly in asthma rate, teen births, prenatal care, residents without a source of usual health care, and fruit and vegetable consumption, according to the report, which examines all 77 counties in the state on a variety of health factors.
Tulsa County improved in the rate of deaths from diabetes, suicide and stroke, and the number of uninsured adults, according to the report.
Tulsa County has a rate of 556.3 people per 100,000 who have cancer, which is slightly worse than last year’s rate of 542.7.
Jolee Holt, clinical research manager with Tulsa Cancer Institute, said the high rate in Tulsa County could be because of the high population density.
It could also be lifestyle differences, such as poor diet, high stress and general fast-paced living, she said.
TCI is one of 30 lead academic sites for the National Cancer Institute and does research on all factors of adult oncology.
It’s important to understand where people with cancer are living because of the possibility of determining environmental factors, Holt said.
Dr. Jenny Alexopulos, medical director for Oklahoma State University Physicians at the OSU Center for Health Sciences and a member of the state board of health, said high rates of tobacco use could also be a reason for the elevated cancer rate.
About 23 percent of Tulsa County residents smoke, a slight improvement from the year before.
The state as a whole performed poorly on indicators such as overall mortality, fruit and vegetable consumption and prenatal care, she noted.
“We still have a large number of our residents engaging in very unhealthy activity,” she said.
The state did show improvement on infant mortality and has targeted programs for improving deaths from heart disease and celebrating healthy schools, businesses and restaurants, she said.
“Having data is very important and you can see here we’ve made some incremental changes,” she said “But we still have a long way to go.”