A new publication from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, appearing as a highlighted article in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, provides an overview of the NCI’s initiatives to accelerate rural cancer control. The authors are: Dr. Amy E. Kennedy, NCI Center for Research Strategy; Dr. Robin Vanderpool, University of Kentucky College of Public Health; Dr. Robert T. Croyle, NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences; and Dr. Shobha Srinivasan, NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.
Previously, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that reported that nonmetropolitan rural counties had lower 5-year annual age-adjusted cancer incidence rates, but higher average annual age-adjusted death rates for compared with nonmetropolitan urban and metropolitan counties. In addition, nonmetropolitan rural counties had higher incidence and death rates for cancers associated with smoking (e.g., lung and laryngeal cancers), and higher rates of incidence of cancers that can be prevented by screening (i.e., colorectal and cervical cancers”). Other studies have also shown that there are significant rural versus urban differences in cancer incidence and mortality rates in the U.S. for certain cancer types, exemplifying the disparities in cancer prevention and control between rural and urban populations.
To further understand the challenges of conducting rural health research, a one-day meeting, “Understanding Definitions of Rural/Rurality: Implications for Rural Cancer Control,” was held on October 27, 2017, at the NCI. The meeting brought together representatives from federal agencies and the extramural community to discuss the varied definitions of rural residence and rurality, and to consider how NCI could strengthen support for research on rural cancer control. At the meeting, speakers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Health Resources Service Administration (HRSA), National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, and the U.S. Census Bureau presented overviews of “rural” definitions and their contexts of use.
In their report, the NCI and Kentucky authors summarize the meeting’s main discussions around defining rural populations, surveillance and epidemiologic research, methodologic challenges, the use of multilevel interventions, and the role of implementation science in rural cancer control.
“The workshop ‘Accelerating Rural Cancer Control Research Meeting’ served to identify both gaps and opportunities in rural cancer control research and was one component of a larger strategic agenda for NCI to hear from the research and practice communities on how to best advance the field of rural cancer control,” the authors conclude.
Moving forward, NCI will continue to engage national, state, and local research and practice communities for input and guidance on how best to move the field of rural cancer control forward.
“Increasing the development and adoption of evidence-based cancer prevention and control interventions, and improving the delivery of high-quality cancer care, are key components of the larger rural cancer control research agenda,” the authors state. “The initiatives developed [at the meeting] will provide a foundation for cancer and public health communities to progress forward with the most effectively targeted investments to accelerate rural cancer control.”