Mid-Year Report on the Fight against Cancer in New York

By Michael Davoli | August 1, 2023

At the start of this year, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action (ACS CAN) outlined steps that New York—and Governor Hochul, specifically—could take in 2023 to make the state a leader in equitable cancer prevention, early detection and treatment. With the legislative session concluded for the calendar year, we can assess how far we’ve advanced in the fight against cancer and how far we’ve left to go to become a national leader in cancer prevention and care.

This year 123,810 New Yorkers are expected to be diagnosed with cancer and 31,320 are projected to die from the disease. These are devastating figures, but there is still time to enact policies that will help to lower cancer incidence and mortality rates for years to come. As I mentioned earlier this year, two definitive avenues for doing so are increasing access to screening and early detection through the New York State Cancer Services Program (CSP) and improving coverage for comprehensive biomarker testing.

The 2023-24 budget delivered on the first goal, allocating an additional $2.5 million for the CSP. The new CSP budget of $22.325 million will give more New Yorkers access to lifesaving screenings, which are proven to reduce incidence and mortality rates for certain cancers. With the increase in funding to the CSP, New York can better serve its under- and uninsured residents, making it so more New Yorkers have the best odds to fight their disease.

New York has also taken critical steps toward expanding access to biomarker testing and, with it, often life-prolonging precision medicine treatments. Biomarker testing is utilized to develop personalized treatment plans, providing oncologists insights into the severity of patients’ diseases, how they might respond to certain treatments, their likelihood of recurrence and more. A1673a/S1196a was introduced earlier this year to ensure all state-regulated health plans, including Medicaid, provide coverage for comprehensive biomarker testing, when medically appropriate. It has passed both the New York State Assembly and Senate with bipartisan and near-unanimous support.

The bill now awaits Governor Hochul’s signature. With her support, more New Yorkers will gain access to a revolutionary resource that is increasingly important in health care. ACS CAN urges Governor Hochul to sign A1673a/S1196a into law. In doing so, she can secure improved survivorship and quality of life for more New Yorkers.

Though efforts to eliminate barriers to cancer detection and care are invaluable in this fight, cancer prevention in New York cannot be solely defined by residents’ access to early detection and diagnostic services. We need to be proactive, reducing the presence of cancer-causing products in New Yorkers’ lives. The best course for lawmakers to achieve this is through tobacco control—and state leaders made key strides in that space in 2023, raising the state cigarette tax by $1 per pack and increasing the Tobacco Control Program (TCP) budget by $7.5 million, for an annual total of $46.658 million. It is estimated that around 44,800 adults in New York will stop smoking as a result of the tax increase. With many thousands of New Yorkers expected to quit smoking because of the tax increase, the additional TCP funding will provide the necessary support to help those endeavoring to quit.

The state did, however, miss an opportunity to deal a blow to Big Tobacco and end the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products—the products of choice for many young New Yorkers. This refusal to be bold will force Black Americans, LGBTQIA+ individuals and limited income communities to continue to bear the brunt of tobacco addiction in New York. ACS CAN will continue to push for strong tobacco control policies, including further increases to the TCP and an end to the sale of menthol cigarettes and all other flavored tobacco products. We look to lawmakers to lead on this front and stand up to Big Tobacco alongside ACS CAN and our allies.

Now is the time to bring biomarker testing (A1673a/S1196a) over the finish line and create equitable tobacco control policies. 2023 can be a defining year in cancer policy—if our leaders have the courage to make it so. A portion of that opportunity rests on Governor Hochul, and the remainder resides with state lawmakers. ACS CAN hopes state leaders will join us in the fight and make New York a leader in cancer policy, nationally.