By Jackie Young
Friday, June 19, 2015 Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released an Assessment of the Occurrence of Cancer in a select study area in East Harris County, Texas. The report confirmed statistically significantly high rates of the following cancers in children: glioma, retinoblastoma, brain cancer, melanoma, and leukemia. The report also confirmed statistically significantly high rates of the following cancers in people of all ages: brain cancer, cervical cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma.
Along with the data was an unprecedented announcement for TX DSHS. In over 400 similar database investigations, this is the first time that the State of Texas is actually going to further investigate the health of specific communities. This is not only a victory for the San Jacinto River Coalition and residents of East Harris County, who have been advocating for the study for several years, but a major victory for public health in the State of Texas.
In 2011, the San Jacinto River Coalition began begging DSHS to study the health of Highlands, TX. Though they werent sure what was making so many local residents develop cancer, they werent convinced that it was all by coincidence. In 2014 DSHS announced that in response to community concerns, they were going to do a cancer database investigation. The leader of the Coalition began assisting DSHS as a community representative, relaying crucial local information that shaped the parameters of their investigation.
Heres what they did:
DSHS investigated cancer database information from 1995 to 2012 for populations along the San Jacinto River, in the inundation zones of the River. This area encompassed 38 census tracks. They looked at the data for the area as a whole and they looked at each census track individually. DSHS investigated database information for 17 types of childhood and adult cancers.
Heres a summary of what they found:
Of the 17 types of cancers investigated, 14 types came back at a statistically significantly high rate in at least one census track within the study area.
The number of childhood brain cancer, leukemia, melanoma, and glioma cases were statistically significantly higher than expected in census tracts 2519, 2323, 2330, and 2520, respectively.
The number of childhood retinoblastoma cases was statistically significantly higher than expected in census tracts 2328 and 2529.
The number of male breast cancer, kidney cancer, and leukemia cases among all ages were each statistically significantly higher in 1 of the 38 census tracts.
The number of liver, brain, and cervical cancer cases among all ages was statistically significantly higher than expected in two, three, and five census tracts, respectively.
The number of both lymphoma and myeloma cases were statistically significantly higher in one, and statistically significantly lower in another, of the census tracts.
The number of female breast cancer cases was statistically significantly higher in three, and statistically significantly lower in eight of the census tracts.
Above findings sourced from Texas Department of State Health Services Assessment of the Occurrence of Cancer East Harris County, Texas. The full report can be found at www.dshs.state.tx.us/epitox/CancerClusters/East-Harris-County- 2015.pdf
With DSHS taking the next step and setting up a panel of experts to conduct a feasibility study for an epidemiological study, the San Jacinto River Coalition hopes that a source is determined so it can be eliminated and future generations will not face the same risks far too many already have.