Each year, 50,000 New Jersey residents will be diagnosed with cancer and 16,000 will die.  While the rates of cancer are on a downward trend in the Garden State, there is still a great deal of work to be done.  

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The states with the highest rates of cancer are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Kentucky. New Jersey is among the next tier of states with high cancer rates and it joins New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania among others.

"While New Jersey doesn't have the highest rate, we would like to be at the very lowest group of states," said Surgical Oncologist Dr. Arnold Baskies, medical director at Virtua Medical Group and a member of the National Board of Directors of the American Cancer Society. "But, given the fact that we are in the industrial Northeast, we have a more diverse population and we're very compact with one of the highest population densities in the country. When you put all that together, I'd rather be in the second tier of the highest states than the first."

The one factor that impacts the rates of cancer in New Jersey and every other state in the country is smoking.

"If we could somehow wave a magic wand and get people to stop smoking, we would save hundreds of thousands of lives," Baskies said. "If we do not get a handle on tobacco, this century will see the highest number of deaths directly related to tobacco use than at any other time in history. There will be one billion deaths directly attributable to the side effects of tobacco."

The chances of survival are getting better, improving by 1 percent each year. While lung cancer rates are on the way down, New Jersey is seeing a spike in thyroid cancer, lymphoma, leukemia, uterine and pancreatic cancer. The state is also seeing an increase in melanoma cases among people under the age of 25 and the elderly.

"The increase in the young age group is directly attributable to tanning bed use and sun exposure," Baskies said.