Huron County, ON – The Huron County Health Unit is looking into whether there are higher than normal cancer rates in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh township.
Public Health Epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Clark, says the health unit received a concern from a resident about the number of people with cancer in the area. Huron County as a whole does not have higher than normal cancer rates, but cancer rates are not broken down by township.
Clark says there are four steps to a cancer cluster investigation. “We are starting the first step, which is to gather information from residents who have lived in the Township of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh for at least five years and who have had a cancer diagnosis.”
Residents who meet these criteria are asked to call Clark at the health unit at 519.482.3416 or email her at eclark [at] huroncounty.ca before February 28, 2014.
To be considered a cancer cluster, the individuals with cancer must be diagnosed with a type of cancer or group of cancers that share a common causal pathway. Clark says not all cancers are related even if they appear to be.
Clark explains that there must be sufficient evidence at each step to proceed with the investigation. The next three steps of an investigation look at the types of cancer, whether they are related and whether there is any association between the cancers and environmental causes. In the experience of Cancer Care Ontario and its U.S. counterpart, very few investigations of suspected cancer clusters reach step three.
Clark says it is rare to be able to identify a cancer cluster with an environmental exposure. However, she says, “It is important that we do everything we can to investigate whether a cancer cluster exists in Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh township.”
The health unit will complete step one of the investigation by mid-March. Clark says at that time they will determine whether there is enough evidence to continue investigating.