The number of people dying from cancer is growing here in Tennessee, according to a new health report.

The United Health Foundation report studies the nation's health on a state-by-state basis. It looks at community behaviors, environment, policy and more.

Results show the national rate of cancer deaths decreasing, but here in Tennessee, cancer deaths increased by 7 percent between 1990 and 2018.

Oklahoma is seeing the biggest increase with 12 percent.

News4 spoke with a Vanderbilt University doctor who says our state's increase puts us among the worst.

"According to that report, there are seven or eight states there has been an increase in mortality," said Dr. Wei Zheng. "It's very surprising to me because I know nationwide there has been a decrease in cancer mortality over the past two decades. A Tennessee increase actually comes as a surprise to me."

Zheng said the state's increase in cancer deaths could be caused by these two factors.

"The smoking rate is very high in Tennessee ... We have about 22 percent smoking rate, and nationwide it's about 17 percent," he said.

The state's obesity rate is also a big factor.

"We find those people who live in poor neighborhoods tend to have a high risk of cancer and other disease. Those lifestyle factors like smoking, obesity and exercise effect cancer risk," Zheng said.

There's no hard evidence proving that smoking and obesity are the causes, but many health professionals say it's likely.

If you need help getting healthy, Vanderbilt offers a wide variety of services and programs, including a tobacco hotline. You can also call the state tobacco hotline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Anchor/Reporter

Desiree Wiley joined the News4 team as weekend morning anchor and reporter in April 2018.

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