Report focuses on cancer clusters in Del.

April 24, 2008 3:48:57 PM PDT
A new report says that there are 8 separate and distinct cancer clusters in the state of Delaware where residents get cancer at abnormally high rates.The report says about 4 in 10 Delaware residents live in areas with cancer clusters.

Martha Beard has lived in the Overview Gardens section of New Castle for 35 years.

New Castle has been identified as one of the eight cancer clusters.

Beard says cancer has taken a heavy toll in her neighborhood among young and old.

"Within the last 3 years, I'd say about ten people," Beard said.

Beard's neighborhood is in the shadow of a landfill and two major highways, but no one can say if there's an environmental cause.

The eight clusters are mostly in the northern part of the state.

They are mostly near heavy industries such as chemical plants and refineries.

Cancer rates are higher than the state average in those areas by 10 to 45 percent.

However, the Director of Public Health, Jaime Rivera, says they can't say for sure what is causing the higher cancer rates.

"We can't get anywhere near stating with certainty we know why," Dr. Rivera said.

Dr. Rivera points out that the study shows an increase of mostly common cancers, usually associated with life style more than environmental factors like air and water pollution.

He says environmental cancers tend to be rare types and show up in unlikely age groups.

The cancer clusters have higher rates of prostate, colorectal, and lung cancers.

Dr. Rivera says part of the spike may be due to increased screening efforts and earlier detection.

He says before you call the moving van, think about changing your lifestyle first including what we drink, eat, and how we exercise.

Dr. Rivera says there is no need for alarm in the cluster areas but, he says the state is conducting an intense study in Millsboro where they've found a 30 percent higher incidence of lung cancer. They're trying to pin down an exact cause.