2004.10.07-UPDATE ON CANCER FIGURES EXPECTED

State would look for possible cause, Rush area audience told.
By Chris Parker
The Morning Call Inc., Copyright 2004
Reprinted With Permission

October 7, 2004
The state hopes within weeks to have more accurate data on a rare bone marrow disease that several Rush Township area people say they have been diagnosed with and believe may be linked to industrial pollution.

Joel H. Hersh, director of the state Health Department’s Bureau of Epidemiology, said 2002 and 2003 information on people diagnosed with polycythemia vera is expected in several weeks.

The department has figures only for 2001, the first year the disease was required to be reported to the state.

Hersh said the next step would be to work with environmental scientists to ”determine whether or not there is a causative agent.”

That was good news for those who say they have the disease, which causes blood to thicken and cause strokes and heart attacks.

Hersh’s announcement came at a gathering Wednesday of people concerned that hazardous chemicals they believe leached from the former McAdoo Associates Superfund site in nearby Kline Township are causing cancer in the Ben Titus Road area of Rush Township.

The meeting, attended by about 45 people and organized by state Rep. David G. Argall, whose 124th district includes Schuylkill County, was to discuss the findings of a recent Department of Health statistical study on cancer rates in the area.

The study, which tracked cancer rates, did not link occurrences of the disease to any environmental cause.

The study counted cases of 23 types of cancers in nine ZIP codes in McAdoo, Tamaqua, Nesquehoning, Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill, Weatherly, Beaver Meadows and Quakake.

It found the rate of polycythemia vera in Schuylkill County is 234 percent higher than the state average.

The actual numbers, which the health department conceded are probably not accurate, are small.

Polycythemia vera occurs in one in every 50,000 people, said department epidemiologist Gene B. Weinberg.

The study found the disease in only one ZIP code, 18237, which is McAdoo.

But it was found in all three counties in areas outside the study: one in Carbon, nine in Schuylkill and 11 in Luzerne, according to the Health Department.

The study was of cancers diagnosed from 1996 through 2001.

Hersh said he’ll have figures and related information on the bone marrow disease, including sex and age of patients, within several weeks.

The meeting began with Weinberg summarizing the study.

Afterward, Peter Baddick, a West Penn Township physician, challenged Weinberg, Hersh and epidemiologist Gregory F. Bogdan on the methodology used in the study.

Baddick, who said the rates of cancer in the counties is higher than the state study indicated, debated Weinberg for about a half-hour.

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