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DHS news release

May 15, 2007

General contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Program contact: Jae Douglas, 503-872-5356

DHS updates northwest Eugene area on cancer study findings; public has through June 30 to comment on report

Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services today released updated results from their September 2006 study of cancer cases in three northwest Eugene neighborhoods. Researchers have worked closely with local public health officials and area residents during the course of this multi-year effort.

The results will be discussed with residents at a meeting this Thursday, May 17, along with results from a separate study of the J.H. Baxter Wood Treating Facility. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at the Red Cross building, 862 Bethel Dr., Eugene. The first hour of the meeting will offer residents an opportunity to talk with individual DHS staff during an informal information session. Formal presentations will begin at 7 p.m.

The results update the DHS Public Health Division's September report about cases of four different types of cancer during 1996-2002 identified in residents of the River Road, Trainsong and Bethel neighborhoods. The initial investigation, requested by residents who were concerned that contaminants from nearby industries were causing high rates of cancer, found no significant increase in cancer cases in the area.

After the 2006 report was released, the Oregon State Cancer Registry obtained additional cancer data for 2003 and 2004 from six census tracts. Researchers have completed an updated review of cases from census tracts 26, 27, 28, 41, 42 and 43 for the years 1996 to 2004, and those results will be discussed at Thursday's meeting.

The census tract review found no significant increase in cancer rates for the four cancers studied, with two exceptions – lung cancer and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). The lung cancer cases can be explained by other factors, researchers noted. However, the AML cases -- two more than normally would be expected in a similarly sized population -- require more investigation. As a result, researchers are recommending continued monitoring of cancer rates and further investigation of AML cases to evaluate AML-related risk factors such as family history, chemotherapy and radiation for the treatment of cancer, or occupational exposure to benzene.

Researchers noted they are unable at this time to determine if there is a relationship between the excess number of cases of lung cancer or AML and exposure to environmental contaminants from industrial sources. The public health impact of individual or multiple contaminants in these census tracts cannot be determined due to a lack of information about individual case histories and the environmental data, which are needed to evaluate the relationship between exposure to contaminants and individual health effects. However, individuals are strongly encouraged to abstain from tobacco use, which is highly associated with both lung cancer and AML.

The study was conducted by the DHS Public Health Division's Superfund Health Investigation and Education (SHINE) program. Community members have helped guide the parameters of the study, reviewed and commented on preliminary study results, and provided additional feedback to researchers. Thursday's meeting will continue this collaborative effort.

The full report is available on the SHINE​ Web site and will be open for public comment through June 30. Comments should be sent to SHINE, Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division, 800 N.E. Oregon St., Suite 827, Portland, OR 97232.

The SHINE program is one of many public health programs within DHS that focus on prevention and helping people manage their health so they can be as productive and healthy as possible.