Altitude Cancer: How does living at high altitude affect someone’s chances of getting most cancers? Summit County experts weigh in

Keystone resident Joel Wexler shares his most cancers story Friday at Marina Park in Dillon. 19, 2022.
Tripp Fay/Summit for the Daily News

Joel Wexler has made fairly a couple of mates as a full-time Keystone resident for 5 years, however it’s his black Labrador retriever, Gussie, that he loves probably the most.

She was by his aspect for many of his 13-year journey. In 2009, docs had been involved about elevated ranges of prostate-specific antigens, in order that they carefully monitored his well being till he was identified with most cancers in 2021.

From the second Wexler met Gussie, almost a decade in the past, the pair have been inseparable. Wexler might be seen driving a fats tire bike or traversing snowy landscapes with Gussy shut behind.



Wexler was a former skier — sometimes spending 130 days on the mountain every season — however when he was hurtling down the slopes, his thoughts was usually on his pet, which he left at house.

On the times Wexler renews his will, when the risk of most cancers makes life too troublesome, it is Gussy who cheers him up probably the most.



At this level, he mentioned he wasn’t overly involved about getting prostate most cancers, however the information nonetheless got here as a shock.

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Keystone resident Joel Wexler walks along with his canine Gussie at Marina Park in Dillon, Friday, Aug. 19. In February 2021, after years of testing for prostate most cancers, docs discovered a small, “curable” spot of most cancers.

Cancer in the high nation

Similar to Wexler’s expertise with most cancers, roughly 1.9 million folks in the U.S. are anticipated to develop some kind of most cancers by 2022, in keeping with National Cancer Institute estimates..

But when trying at how Summit County compares to different counties in Colorado, knowledge from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental Protection’s Colorado Central Cancer Registry Summit County had the bottom age-adjusted incidence of new most cancers diagnoses per 100,000 folks (272.9) when trying at the latest 10-year knowledge (2009 to 2019). Dolores County, in southwestern Colorado, had the bottom age-specific incidence throughout that interval, with 274.3 instances per 100,000 folks.

John Arend, program supervisor of the Colorado Central Cancer Registry, wrote in an e mail that these age-adjusted incidence charges “assist cut back variations in the age distribution of the populations being in contrast.” He additional defined that “age-adjusted incidence charges are probably the most generally used statistic to explain the most cancers burden of a neighborhood and to match it with charges in different communities.”

All rural mountain communities close to Summit County had greater than 300 diagnoses per 100,000 folks throughout the identical interval: Grand County 308.3, Lake County 316.8, Park County 338, Eagle County 346, Creek 346. The charge was 368.2.

Over the identical time interval, the charges of instances shifting eastward towards Front Range communities additionally enhance: Boulder County’s charge is 392.4, Broomfield County’s charge is 401, Douglas County’s charge is 408.7, Denver County’s charge is 416.3, and Jefferson County’s charge is 401.3. It was 416.9.

The Colorado Department of Health shouldn’t be the one group to launch Summit County knowledge. According to a 2017 research Summit County had one of the 5 lowest dying charges for lung most cancers, breast most cancers and prostate most cancers in 2014, in keeping with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. According to the National Cancer Institute, these cancers are the most typical sorts of most cancers.

So why does most cancers appear to be statistically much less widespread in Summit County? Ann Wilcox, director of most cancers service traces at Vail Health, believes it has to do with the neighborhood’s way of life.

“One of the methods we cut back our danger components is by living a wholesome way of life,” Wilcox mentioned. “We are lucky to be in an setting the place wholesome consuming and exercise are half of our day by day routine. You do not inform anybody, “What did you do on the weekend?” You requested, “Did you do the summit or the river or experience your bike?” do you imply

This wholesome way of life shouldn’t be underestimated when discussing most cancers. According to the World Health Organization, most cancers causes 1 in 6 deaths, making it the main trigger of dying worldwide.. Some of the chance components for creating most cancers embody smoking, alcohol consumption, poor weight-reduction plan, bodily inactivity and air air pollution.

That doesn’t suggest Summit County residents are resistant to most cancers. Wilcox famous that household historical past and entry to well being care additionally play a task.

According to the Colorado Central Cancer Registry, Summit County had an age-adjusted incidence charge of 272.9 new most cancers diagnoses per 100,000 folks from 2009 to 2019. Summit County had the bottom age-related morbidity in the state throughout this time interval.
Jenna deJong / Summit Daily News

When Wexler, 68, was identified, it wasn’t his first expertise with most cancers. His mom had lung most cancers and his brother had prostate most cancers.

Despite Wexler’s wholesome way of life, different danger components — some of them past his management — might have contributed to his analysis.

According to the National Cancer Institute, prostate most cancers is the most typical most cancers and is the second main trigger of most cancers dying amongst males in the US with a five-year relative survival charge of roughly 97%. The institute’s web site places the speed of new instances of prostate most cancers at 113 instances per 100,000 males per yr.

Compared to Summit County neighbors, charges range. According to the Colorado Department of Health’s Cancer Dashboard, Summit County’s prostate most cancers incidence charge from 2009 to 2019 was 50.51 new diagnoses per 100,000 folks. For reference, Lake, Park and Grand counties all had decrease charges than Summit. Rates are larger in Eagle and Clear Creek counties.

According to the Colorado Central Cancer Registry, Summit County had an age-adjusted charge of 23.91 new pores and skin most cancers diagnoses per 100,000 folks from 2009 to 2019. As the chart reveals, close by Lake and Grand counties had decrease charges than Summit.
Jenna deJong / Summit Daily News

Proximity of the solar

While Wilcox says the life-style of individuals who select to dwell at high altitudes can cut back the chance of most cancers, there are some downsides. Part of a wholesome way of life, Wilcox says, entails getting outdoors and exploring the neighborhood’s wide selection of leisure alternatives, which implies getting extra publicity to the solar.

“We’re a mile from the solar, and we’re all the time outdoors,” Wilcox mentioned, including that even driving your automobile from Summit County to Denver is extra harmful than driving nearer to sea stage. fingers with high depth. “Our need to dwell outdoors, which is why we dwell right here, exposes us.”

Dr. David Biggs, MD, director of oncology and hematology at the CHPG Medical Oncology Summit at the Medical Office Building in Frisco, agreed that folks living in high altitude areas needs to be extra cautious about pores and skin most cancers.

“Skin most cancers is extra widespread right here as a result of of the skinny ambiance and publicity to ultraviolet gentle,” Biggs mentioned.

A research revealed in 2018 by Frontiers for Young Minds takes a better look at this. The research cited Leadville as the best metropolis in the U.S., at 10,152 ft, and “has pores and skin most cancers.” The research discovered that at high altitudes, “atmospheric UV safety is diminished, ensuing in 50% extra UV publicity than at sea stage.”

While the info reveals a barely larger charge for melanoma or basal cell pores and skin most cancers for Summit County, it isn’t as high as different counties in the state, together with Denver, Jefferson, Douglas or Broomfield counties, and even some rural mountain communities. Clear Creek, Eagle and Park counties all had larger age-adjusted incidence charges than Summit’s charge of 23.91 new most cancers diagnoses per 100,000 folks. Lake and Grand counties had decrease pores and skin most cancers charges from 2009 to 2019.

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A view of the Shaw Cancer Center positioned contained in the Dillon Health Center. The facility as a complete opened in November 2021, and the Shaw Cancer Center opened in February 2022.

Living with most cancers

During his remedy, Wexler mentioned he by no means thought of shifting out of Summit County. It’s a spot he loves dearly and a spot he calls house along with his canine.

She and Gussy nonetheless plan to experience round city as he bonds together with her on his fats tire bike. Although her most cancers shouldn’t be but in remission, she stays optimistic and maintains an energetic way of life.

Through docs’ visits, check-ups and assessments, the pair stay inseparable.

For now, she plans to spend time with Gussie and make as many recollections as potential whereas her physique continues to struggle no matter most cancers stays in her physique.

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