Cancer is the leading cause of death for Alaska Native older adults. Age specific cancer mortality rates show that Alaska Native older adult have a higher proportion of deaths from all types of cancer than the U.S. White population (Lanier et. al. 2002). Although cancer mortality is higher in Alaska Native older adults than in U.S. Whites, the incidence rate of cancer per 100,000 population is very similar (Lanier et. al. 2001).
Figure 2 below compares cancer rates in Alaska Natives and US Whites by age from 1984–1998. Data from the Tumor Registry indicate that between 1969–1998 the number of cancer cases tripled, and more people are surviving cancer. Specific cases of cancer for the years 1984–1998 indicate that by far the highest numbers of people with cancer are elders: out of a total of 3,097 cases of cancer, 30% are 70 and older, 25% are between 60 and 69, and 21% are 50 to 59 years old. Therefore, as the Alaska Native population continues to age and live longer, we can also expect an increase in the incidence of cancer, and will need to factor that increase into planning for elder services.