DOVER, Del. -- Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed legislation that could help fight Delaware's high cancer rates by tracking the disease's possible environmental causes.

The bill, S.B. 372, requires that doctors report additional information from cancer patients to the state's cancer registry. The new information includes the length of residency in Delaware; where the patients lived; and what type of work residents have been involved in. The bill also extends the reporting deadline for caregivers who must report to the cancer registry.

"With this new information we will be able to find out whether our state's environment is contributing to our high cancer rate," Gov. Minner said. "Our goal is to not only decrease our cancer rate, but to make Delaware a model for quality cancer care and early detection, while at the same time ensuring that our environment is a safe one."

The goal of the reporting is to help determine why Delaware's cancer death rate is third in the nation. In 1999, nearly 3,800 Delawareans were diagnosed with cancer, according to the council's report. More than 1,700 died. And between 1994 and 1998, the cancer incidence rate in Delaware was 10 percent above the national average.

The state's electronic cancer registry was created in 1970 and, a decade later, it became the official statewide cancer registry. The Division of Public Health, part of the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, maintains the cancer registry.

The Delaware Advisory Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality, a 14-member council created last year by the governor and the General Assembly, recommended the creation and passage of S.B. 372.

The cancer advisory council's report, "Turning Commitment Into Action" lists 26 recommendations for fighting cancer and another 130 specific tasks related to those recommendations.

One of the council's suggestions was to increase knowledge about cancer and its environmental causes.

The council's report has five major long-term goals:

To decrease cancer incidence rates;

To decrease cancer death rates;

To make Delaware a model for quality cancer care and early detection;

To eliminate the differences in cancer rates between different races, genders and socioeconomic groups; and

To learn more about who gets cancer and why.

Office of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner