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The number of cancer survivors in the United States is growing. Current estimates identify 16.9 million individuals living with a history of cancer, with that number projected to grow to 22.1 million by 2030. This increase is the result of an aging population and the evolution of cancer detection practices and treatments.
Cancer survivors reside in almost every community in the country. We conducted this study to identify the cities that will suit them best and support their health and well-being.
For the purpose of this study, we use the term “cancer survivor” to refer to any living person with a history of cancer. They may have a recent diagnosis, be undergoing current treatment such as chemotherapy or have been in remission for many years. Identifying prime locations for cancer survivors to reside provides an opportunity for them to take steps to benefit their ongoing health.
To determine the best cities for cancer survivors, we began by analyzing the top 100 happiest cities in America, according to the annual Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. We then reviewed the following metrics for each city to create a scorecard revealing the best locations for survivors to consider:
- Overall community well-being ranking
- Number of cancer patients per capita
- Number of top cancer hospitals
- Average annual temperature
- Percentage of adult smoking population
- Number of Cancer Survivors Parks and their proximity
An individual’s well-being and overall health can be directly tied to where they live, work and play. Areas with a higher ratio of cancer patients are more likely to have considerable cancer resources, as well as a greater likelihood of shared experiences among residents. Access to ongoing treatments and health monitoring at cancer hospitals within a 50-mile radius adds another beneficial layer to each of these cities. In addition, proximity to Cancer Survivors Parks, many built by the Richard & Annette Block Family Foundation, offers the therapeutic benefits of a quiet respite.
Precipitation levels and a temperate climate can be relevant factors impacting the health of cancer survivors. One study showed that rates of cancer were higher in colder climates than in hotter, drier climates. There were some exceptions, however. Lung cancer was found to be more prevalent in hot, dry climates. Frigid winters also led to more health risks for cancer survivors, such as falls, frostbite and hypothermia.
Exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke can be harmful to cancer survivors, so cities with lower numbers of smokers help decrease the environmental risk factors.
California Is Home to 7 of America’s 10 Best Cities for Cancer Survivors
With its mild year-round climate and hubs of medical innovation in Silicon Valley and Southern California, it may be no surprise that California is home to seven of the country’s top 10 cities for cancer survivors. It also has the largest population of cancer survivors in the country, at over 1.88 million.
Here is a closer look at the top 10 U.S. cities for cancer survivors.
1. Napa, CA
The picturesque wine country destination of Napa, California, ranks No. 1 as the best city for cancer survivors. The city clinched its position at the top of this list by ranking second out of 100 cities for the number of cancer cases reported over a five-year period, with more than 2,000 cases per capita. This means a greater pool of resources for cancer survivors. The high ratio of cancer, combined with the area’s 18 hospitals, make it a good location for ongoing care.
2. San Jose, CA
The city of San Jose, part of the famed tech innovation region known as Silicon Valley, achieved the No. 2 spot on our list and on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index. Residents there are happier overall than the majority of the country. The city’s percentage of adult smokers is also the lowest on this list, with only 11.3% of residents contributing to secondhand smoke risks.
3. Miami, FL
Miami’s relaxing beaches, large number of cancer hospitals and the warmest average temperature on our list make it a prime location in the southeastern United States. Apparently many people have already figured that out, as Florida has the second-largest population of cancer survivors, with more than 1.48 million.
4. Santa Rosa, CA
The Northern California city of Santa Rosa is home to one of 25 Cancer Survivors Parks, which are located all across North America. The parks were designed to provide “a subconscious message that death and cancer are not synonymous.” Coupling that with pleasant temperatures, access to quality cancer care and a low percentage of smokers makes this city another Northern California gem.
5. Durham, NC
Durham, North Carolina, has more than 720 cases of cancer per capita. Cancer survivors can live and thrive in Durham, knowing they have all the resources they need for good health. As the easternmost city on our list, its average high temperature of 74 degrees helps increase the appeal of this growing region.
6. Los Angeles, CA
The Los Angeles metropolitan area is home to 35 cancer hospitals, ranking second nationally in number among 100 cities. One important facility there is Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which ranked No. 7 on our recent list of top high-tech cancer hospitals in the U.S.
Residents can also visit the Cancer Survivors Park located just outside of nearby Palm Springs.
7. Honolulu, HI
The fact that a Hawaiian island locale ranked as the sixth happiest community in the country may not surprise you. What is interesting is that Honolulu’s average daily maximum temperature is the same as two California cities on this list, Los Angeles and Vallejo.
8. Vallejo, CA
Nestled midway between Napa and San Francisco, the city of Vallejo shares some similar qualities to our No. 1 ranking city. The average temperature and the risk levels from secondhand smoke in both Napa and Vallejo closely align. Of the cities on this list, Vallejo is also second only to Napa in the total ratio of cancer cases per capita. The higher incidence of cancer translates to a more informed local population, as each resident is more likely to have been touched by the disease.
9. Ventura, CA
Ventura, California, is a coastal town located about an hour northwest of Los Angeles. The fresh ocean air and mild average temperatures, combined with a population in which only 12.6% of adults smoke, makes for a cleaner atmosphere than most cities can offer.
10. Santa Cruz, CA
The beachside town of Santa Cruz, California, hosts a popular boardwalk and amusement park and has a relaxed overall energy. The city, along with Los Angeles, features the second-lowest ratio of adult smokers on our list. And with less than an hour’s drive to San Jose, local cancer survivors also have access to the cancer hospitals and medical advancements provided by Silicon Valley.
Some may think a geographical location cannot directly impact a person’s health, but research shows otherwise. Physical and mental well-being in a community have been linked to longer life expectancy and better health outcomes. This list of the 10 best cities for cancer survivors can serve as a road map to a healthier future.
In order to determine the best cities for cancer survivors, we compared data from the 100 happiest cities in the U.S., according to Sharecare’s 2020 Community Well-Being Index. We rated each city on a weighted scale based on the following factors:
- Overall community well-being ranking — 20 points
- Number of cancer patients per capita — 20 points
- Number of top cancer hospitals — 20 points
- Average annual temperature — 15 points
- Percentage of adult smoking population — 15 points
- Number of Cancer Survivors Parks — 10 points
We analyzed the National Cancer Institute’s statistics on both per capita cancer rates over a five-year period and the most recently recorded totals of adults over 18 who smoke. We pulled data from U.S. News & World Report to identify the number of cancer hospitals within a 50-mile radius of each city. We also incorporated national climate data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and factored in the proximity of the Cancer Survivors Parks listed by the Richard & Annette Block Family Foundation.