(HealthDay News) — While cancer mortality rates have dropped 20% overall in the United States since 1980, high mortality rates persist in pockets throughout the country, according to a report published in the Jan 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Christopher Murray, MD, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues used federal data to estimate mortality rates from 29 cancers in counties across the nation. His team found that cancer deaths decreased 20% between 1980 and 2014, from 240 to 192 deaths per 100,000 people.

However, 160 counties showed increases in cancer mortality rates between 1980 and 2014. Liver cancer deaths increased in nearly every county, and clusters of counties with large increases were found in California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, and Texas, Murray told HealthDay. “There were high death rates from prostate cancer in groups of counties in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia,” he added.

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Most counties have seen decreases in breast cancer deaths since 1980. However, clusters of high breast cancer mortality rates exist in counties along the Mississippi River and in other parts of the South. The lowest rates are in parts of the West, Midwest, and Northeast, Murray said.

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  1. Mokdad AH, Dwyer-Lindgren L, Fitzmaurice C, et al. Trends and Patterns of Disparities in Cancer Mortality Among US Counties, 1980-2014. JAMA. 24 January 2017. doi: 10.1001/jama.2016.20324