Friday, December 31, 2010

Ohio Child Cancers Confound Parents, Investigators

Ohio Child Cancers Confound Parents, Investigators
The Associated Press
December 30, 2010 (AP)

His oldest daughter, diagnosed with leukemia nearly five years ago when she was 13, is in remission. His 12-year-old son has another year of chemotherapy for a different type of leukemia. And his 9-year-old daughter is scared she'll be next.

Hisey is not alone in fearing the worst. Just about every mom and dad in this rural northern Ohio town gets nervous whenever their children get a sinus infection or a stomachache lingers. It's hard not to panic since mysterious cancers have sickened dozens of area children in recent years.

Since 1996, 35 children have been diagnosed — and three have died — of brain tumors, leukemia, lymphoma, and other forms of cancer — all within a 12-mile wide circle that includes two small towns and farmland just south of Lake Erie. With many of the diagnoses coming between 2002 and 2006, state health authorities declared it a cancer cluster, saying the number and type of diagnoses exceed what would be expected statistically for so small a population over that time.

...During the 1960s and '70s, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigated 108 cancer clusters around the United States, most of them childhood leukemia. But they found no definite causes for any of them.

The CDC has since allowed states to take the lead investigating almost all suspected clusters while still offering some oversight, as the federal agency is doing in Ohio.

The outbreak around Clyde is only 50 miles north of another cluster that Ohio health officials spent four years investigating. Beginning in the late 1990s, nine former students from River Valley High School in Marion were diagnosed with leukemia.

Tests found toxic chemicals in schoolyard soil and students were relocated to new buildings miles away. Investigators never definitively linked the cancers to the old school site, a former World War II Army depot where wastes and solvents were dumped and burned.

The nation's most intensive investigation ever of a cancer cluster began nine years ago in western Nevada and remains inconclusive. Hundreds of state and federal experts have spent millions investigating the leukemia that sickened 17 children and killed three between 1997 and 2004...

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