Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Environmental Cancer Data – What does it mean?

The New York State Health Department has gone out of its way to toss in as many caveats to the new Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping website as they can.  I understand and appreciate the need to explain to the public that just because cancer clusters cluster around various facilities, it does not mean that the facilities caused cancers. 

But, this is a start in trying to figure out the relationship between all that ‘stuff’ we are discharging into our land, air, and water—and the rise of cancer.  Much of the stuff we are discharging into our environment is known to be cancer-causing but what exactly happens to a substance once it leaves the vats in the lab and radiates out into the environment is often too complicated to ever understand without long-term and thorough research.  But, we should be on that. 

We should stop assuming that because it is difficult to discover a causal relationship between a particular manmade chemical and a particular cancer (in say, rats) that it is impossible or we shouldn’t be investigating.  We need to know what is happening in our environment. I applaud the New York State Health Department for coming out with the Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping and appreciate it’s a start in discovering the relationship between our environment and cancer—not the end. 

Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping "The New York State Environmental Facilities and Cancer Mapping project is designed to answer questions many New Yorkers have about cancer and environmental facilities in their communities. It provides an interactive map which shows the numbers and types of cancer within small geographic areas. It also shows the locations of environmental facilities within the same geographic areas. This project also provides information on cancer, its possible causes, and how to interpret cancer data."

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