The American Cancer Society says Colorado has work to do on cancer prevention

Colorado could reduce cancer rates if it did more to regulate tanning and discourage smoking.
4 min. read
A cigarette burns in black and white. (Denis Defreyne, Flickr)

Colorado could be doing more to discourage smoking, the American Cancer Society said. (Denis Defreyne, Flickr)

Colorado could reduce cancer rates if it did more to regulate tanning and discourage smoking, a report released by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network shows.

We're doing some things right, but there are many policy areas where we fall short of federal standards.

The report entitled “How Do You Measure Up?” uses 10 different metrics in three different categories, concerning tobacco, cancer prevention and access to care, to determine whether a state is doing its best to prevent or treat cancer.

Colorado received good marks in only three of the ten categories: women's cancer screenings, oral chemotherapy legislation and Medicaid coverage expansion.

It is one of only nine states to put state money into breast and cervical cancer screening programs. It has enacted oral chemotherapy fairness legislation -- meaning state-sponsored insurance companies in Colorado must treat oral chemotherapy drugs the same as traditional IV drugs.

Lastly, it joined more the than half the states that have expanded Medicaid to cover those who make up to 138 percent of the federally determined poverty level. That gives a lot more people access to health care.

Here’s where Colorado fell short:

Tobacco excise taxes The average state tobacco tax is $1.65 per pack of cigarettes. According to the study, taxes above that average discourage smokers, along with providing revenue to the state. Colorado’s tax is currently 84 cents per pack but could increase to $2.59 if initiative 143 makes it to the November ballot.

Smoke-free laws Some Colorado cities mandate 100 percent of workplaces, restaurants and bars to be smoke-free, but not all.

Tobacco cessation services Colorado offers at least one of three types of counseling and at least one of seven available tobacco cessation medications -- for free -- to people on marketplace insurance plans.

Tobacco control program funding The Centers for Disease Control recommends Colorado budget $52.9 million on campaigns and monitoring to reduce tobacco use. Colorado currently spends $21.8 million -- 41.3 percent of the recommended value.

Cancer pain control The American Cancer Society recommends states implement policies that balance patient access to pain medication with efforts to reduce abuse.

Here’s where Colorado received failing marks:

Palliative care The American Cancer Society emphasizes that many people still cope with pain, fatigue, nausea and/or emotional distress after cancer treatment. Colorado has yet to introduce legislation that encourages access to care related to quality of life for those who complete medical treatment.

Indoor tanning Colorado is one of only six states in which indoor tanning is completely unregulated. This finding coincides with a recent study released by CU Anschutz that found that tanning businesses are actively targeting younger audiences through social media.

“Any level of indoor tanning is a contributing risk for skin cancer, and tanning just once a month can double the risk of melanoma, the most deadly kind of skin cancer,” the study’s author, Lori Crane, said in a statement.

Crane’s study examined tanning salons in Denver and five other major cities to track the method and frequency of tanning marketing aimed at young women. Apparently the advertising is working. Using slogans like, “Pale is the scariest thing you can be for Halloween,” salons have recruited about one third of white women aged 18-25. They tan on average 28 times per year.

“Indoor tanning prevention is 25-50 years behind tobacco prevention efforts,” Crane said.

Up until two years ago, there was no surgeon general warning for indoor tanning. Bans on tanning for individuals under 18 exist in 12 states and Washington, D.C., though some states (ahem, Colorado) have no regulations at all.

The American Cancer Society’s findings seem to put Colorado in the middle of the pack on most metrics.

Multimedia business & healthcare reporter Chloe Aiello can be reached via email at [email protected] or

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