ODH: Port Clinton cancer rates above normal

August 23, 2010 8:29:56 PM PDT
A report by the Ohio Department of Health finds that cancer rates in Port Clinton are higher than expected, but it doesn't say whether there is a cancer cluster.Ottawa County Health Commissioner Nancy Osborn says the results don't send up a red flag, and she doesn't see anything unusual that would indicate a cancer cluster or environmental cause.

Maria Claus Konoff, the cancer survivor who raised the issue a year ago, says the results show the need for more investigation. Konoff says the cancer assessment verifies what she alerted health officials to about a year and a half ago: The number of cancer cases is above normal. "This has pushed me to move forward with even more commitment and passion," said Konoff.

Health Commissioner Osborn says the opposite. "It doesn't seem to warrant any additional analysis, at least based on this report." According to the study, 503 cancer cases were diagnosed and reported among Port Clinton residents from 1996 to 2007. The report says that number is significantly greater then expected, but the distribution by sex, race, and age was not unusual.

Specifically, there is a higher rate than expected of lung, bronchial, and pancreatic cancers. The study does not determine the causes of those cases, but does point out that smoking tobacco is a risk factor. "It's not surprising to us that those would be cancers that might be higher, since Ottawa County as a whole has a higher rate of smoking adults, greater than Ohio and the national average," said Osborn.

Konoff was not included in the study. She was diagnosed with cancer after she moved away from Port Clinton, which is the case for most of the people she found fighting cancer. She believes blaming smoking is a smokescreen and fears chemicals from old industrial facilities may be to blame. "There have been discussions about chemicals that were used at a facility in town that also can lead to lung cancer, such as Trichloroethylene and Dioxin, which were used at this facility," she said.

Osborn says the Ottawa County Health Department will continue to review the results. She may begin additional health education programs about smoking to focus on prevention and early detection. Konoff is having the results analyzed by an outside organization.