Thanks for joining this live chat following the Cancer Cluster story I worked on. What questions do you have?
Want to make sure our panelists are here - if so, please state your name and title.
Michele West, Associate Research Scientist at the University of Iowa
Dr. Lynch (Chuck) is here. I'm a professor at the U of Iowa.
Dr. Michele West and Dr. Chuck Lynch, want to tackle Sammie's question?
I assume Sammie is referring to a true cancer cluster rather than a potential cancer cluster. The answer then is, Yes, we have identified 2 clusters out of over 100 potential cluster investigations.
Inctrpt- I can't speak to the water in Center Point, but perhaps the Doctors can help direct you as to what you can do to get answers.
We have not investigated Center Point for any potential cancer clusters to date. Just fyi Dr. Lynch.
I will attempt to answer in the drinking water question.
It is possible but not very likely that drinking water in Center Point is causing cancer. I say this becaue the public drinking water supply in Center Point is monitored to ensure safe drinking water for the Center Point residents. Has Center Point been having problems with their drinking water monitoring results being elevated?
Michele, go ahead and respond to this.
If there is a concern you can contact Michele West at the Registry. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
We would then discuss the area of concern, the time period that you are interested in, and a potential comparison group for the analysis.
Jan- I hear ya, but water, soil or air samples actually happen much later... if at all. The first think they look at is the cancer experience. Dr. West or Lynch, can you expound as to why sampling happens later?
Why do you feel the drinking water in Mount Vernon would be the first place to check?
Sampling happens later because first we need to verify that a potential cancer cluster is a true cancer cluster based on our initial evaluation with cancer registry data.
Kris Sargent, RN, OCN Oncology Nurse at Hall Perrine Cancer Center
Kris- you helped connect your cancer patient, Frank Benesh, to Dr. Lynch to get some answers about a suspected cancer cluster in Mt. Vernon. Can you explain how you even know whom to contact? Where to go to get help?
What we know from cancer research strongly indicates that lifestyle factors like tobacco use, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, and physical inactivity are the most important risk factors for cancer.
It is a very easy process. By going to the State Health Registry of Iowa there is an area to ask questions and request information
Regarding pesticides, there is concern about their chronic effects including cancer. We are researching that at the U of Iowa in conjunction with federal agencies like the National Cancer Institute. The study is call the Agricultural Health Study and over 58,000 Iowans are enrolled in the study. To learn more about this, go to google.com and type in Agricultural Health Study.
Lifestyle changes is a way a person can take control and help themselves. The American Cancer Society is always a great site to go to, to find ways to make lifestyle changes - like diet, exercise, sun safety measures ...
If no lifestyle factors exist you look elsewhere, and elsewhere is where the public usually wants to start in evaluating potential cancer clusters. As an example, if a patient was diagnosed with lung cancer and indicated that she/he had not exposure to tobacco, a next step would be to ask that patient about residential radon in their home and about occupational exposures to substances such as asbestos.
We did not find a cause in the two clusters that we have identified. This is not unusual and has been a frequent finding in the evaluation of cancer clusters around the U.S.
I assume Kitty is referring to the Ag Health Study. Yes, these Iowans enrolled voluntarily and they can remove themselves from the study at any time.
Usually the concern is a number of cases in a particular area, whether it is a neighborhood or a small community.
In the initial part of the CC investigation we rely on data with the statewide cancer registry. Most of the CC investigations in Iowa involve some geographic area, so we what to identify the addresses that comprise that area. We then can look for those addresses in the registry database and identify people with cancer in that area.
Brain cancer was identified in one cluster and testicular cancer in the other.
Dr.s West and Lynch, can you speak to the fact that cancer cluster investigations focus on a spike in specific cancers... rather then an overall cancer experience. Why is a lot of one type of cancer an indicator of a cluster?
There are no known factors that cause all types of cancer. Thus, the pattern of elevated cancers in the target area can provided a hint as to what is going on. For example, if we found lung, bladder, larynx, esophagus and kidney cancer elevated, these findings would point toward tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking being more frequent among people residing in the target area.
The brain cancer cluster was in the Wellman, IA area and occured in the 1990s.