Join CSTE   |   Career Center   |   Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Report Abuse   |   Sign In
CSTE Features
Blog Home All Blogs
Search all posts for:   

 

View all (135) posts »
 

Navigating Cancer Clusters

Posted By Sara Ramey, Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Untitled Document
In most states, public health professionals struggle with response to citizen calls reporting a suspected cancer cluster. Calls of this nature are not uncommon and often involve high levels of anxiety, mistrust of the public health agency and a sense of urgency on the part of the citizen. When environmental contaminant concerns are thrown into the mix the response becomes even more complex and media attention and lawsuits often follow.

The recently published MMWR “Investigating Suspected Cancer Clusters and Responding to Community Concerns” (MMWR1993;62(No.RR-8) presents new guidelines developed by a joint CDC and CSTE workgroup tasked with updating the 1990 MMWR guidelines for investigating clustering of health events. Things have changed in public health since 1990: all states have a cancer registry and access to record level data on cancer patients, statistical tools have expanded including geospatial analysis, and geocoding of data has become a norm. These new tools are discussed in the guidelines.
Public expectations have changed since 1990 as well; the internet is accessible to most and search of public websites and blogs are one new way citizens communicate and gather information during a cluster inquiry. Communication with the public has always been a key component of these investigations and this aspect was highlighted in the new guidelines. Emphasizing the importance of community communication, the guidelines recommend earlier partnership with all community partners in these situations. In addition, the CDC also collaborated with the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) to develop a document “Cancer Clusters” A Toolkit for Communicators” Both of these documents are on the CSTE website for membership use. Both documents recognize that ineffective communication can rapidly spin these situations out of control and put the public health agency in an adversarial light.
We only need to look toward recent news articles to understand the national picture on cancer clusters. In December 2013, ATSDR found that mothers at Camp Lejeune Marine Base in North Carolina with first trimester exposures to PCE, vinyl chloride, or DCE were more likely to have a child with leukemia or non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared with unexposed mothers although higher exposures did not increase the likelihood that the child would have these cancers. In May 2013, an 11-year study of the incidence of brain cancer associated with the Pratt & Whitney jet engine plant in Connecticut ended with university researchers saying they found no statistically significant elevations in the rate of cancer among workers related to exposures to contaminants. In January 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health found normal cancer rates for the Como neighborhood near the General Mills plant in Minneapolis despite concerns about elevated levels of solvent vapors detected in the soil. And in Clyde Ohio, the Ohio Department of Health has been investigating contamination concerns and cancer rates in the areas surrounding a Whirlpool facility for a number of years without resolution. My home state, Florida, has had some high profile investigations in recent years as well.
Please take some time to read these documents and share the links . Having a state specific protocol and guidelines in place in your own state before an event of this nature happens may be the key to successful resolution of cancer cluster calls and inquiries.
Sharon Watkins, PhD
Florida Department of Health

Tags:  cancer  chronic disease  member spotlight  surveillance 

Share |
Permalink | Comments (0)
 
Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal