A week ago I posted some data from the Statistical Abstract of the United States. On today's local newscast there was a story about cancer rates in Alaska and one of the people interviewed mentioned that cancer is the leading cause of death in Alaska. In the U.S. heart disease kills 26% more people than cancer. But the numbers for Alaska are quite different than the national averages.
Here's the same table I showed last week, except from 2001, and including Alaska, and Alaska's rank for some causes:
|[Cause]||[National Rate]||[Alaska Rate]||[Alaska Rank]|
|(lower numbers are better)|
|Motor Vehicle Accidents||15.4||16.3|
The values are deaths per 100,000 residents, so they've already got population size factored in. The Alaska rankings are interpreted such that a low number means Alaska has much lower rates for that cause relative to the rest of the United states. Alaska ranks number one (lowest deaths per capita) overall, and for the individual causes of heart disease, cerebrovascular diseases, and diabetes. And we've got the third lowest death rate due to cancer and lower repiratory diseases. Alaska ranks pretty low (high death rates) for accidental death and suicide, however. The extreme environment and very long winter probably contribute to both of these higher death rates.
So more Alaskas do die from cancer than anything else, but relative to the rest of the United States, we have remarkably low death rates. Perhaps there is something to all the open spaces and the clean air and water that keeps the average Alaskan healthy?