Tracking Cancer in Vermont

Girl and Older Woman

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Vermont, and the second leading cause in the U.S.

About 36,000 Vermonters are living with a current or past diagnosis of some form of cancer.

VT Tracking logo
Explore Vermont Data


Cancer is a group of more than 100 different diseases in which abnormal cells in the body grow out of control. Cancers are often named after the part of the body where the abnormal cell growth began—breast cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, and thyroid cancer, for example.

Many cancers are common in Vermont. Each year more than 3,600 Vermonters are diagnosed with some form of cancer. Cancer occurs in people of all ages, but risk increases significantly with age. Nearly four out of 10 Vermonters will develop cancer in their lifetime. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Vermont. Each year, more than 1,300 Vermonters die from some form of cancer.

In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death and cancer is the second. For several decades, heart disease was also the leading cause of death in Vermont, but in 2007 cancer became the leading cause.

Do environmental factors cause cancer?

Cancers generally develop gradually because of a complex mix of factors related to lifestyle choices, environment, and genetics. Each type of cancer is caused by a different set of factors—some well-established, some uncertain, and some unknown. The exact causes of most cancers are unknown, and research continues to examine how and why normal cellular growth becomes uncontrolled. Different types of cancers in a community or workplace do not necessarily have the same cause.

Over two-thirds of cancers are due to factors related to how we live. Tobacco use, heavy drinking, a poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, and overexposure to sunlight increase the risk for cancer.

Through surveillance and tracking, scientists have identified trends in cancer that sometimes correlate with the presence of certain environmental pollutants. This correlation does not rule out other causes, but suggests that environmental factors may increase the risk for particular cancers.

What are examples of environmental pollutants that are associated with cancer?
  • Radon and lung cancer
  • Pesticides and cancers of the blood and lymphatic system
  • Arsenic and bladder cancer
How does Vermont monitor cancer?

The Health Department administers the Vermont Cancer Registry, a statewide cancer surveillance system. State law requires physicians and hospitals in the state to report information on all cases of cancer they diagnose or treat to the Vermont Cancer Registry. Information on Vermonters diagnosed or treated in other states is also included in this registry.

Which cancers are included in Vermont’s Tracking data?

Cancers that have an environmental pollutant as a possible risk factor are included in the Vermont Tracking portal. Certain cancers of the blood and lymphatic system are tracked for people of all ages, as well as children specifically. Additional cancers of public health importance are also included in the Tracking portal.

The Vermont Tracking portal currently includes data on the following cancers:

  • Bladder Cancer 
  • Brain and Other Nervous System Cancer
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colon and Rectum Cancer
  • Kidney and Renal Pelvis Cancer
  • Leukemia
    • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
    • Acute Myeloid Leukemia
    • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct Cancer
  • Lung and Bronchus Cancer
  • Melanoma of the Skin
  • Mesothelioma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
  • Prostate Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer