There are certain occurrences, known as disease clusters, which involve a greater number of patients affected by a condition than expected among a particular group of people in a geographical location. One the most startling disease clusters that have been increasing are cancer clusters.
Cancer clusters occur when a large number of people in a geographical location are diagnosed with the same form of cancer or similar cancers. People affected by cancer clusters can be friends, family members, and even neighbors. What makes cancer clusters unique is the fact cancer is not contagious, yet large groups of people in a general location begin suffering from the uncontrollable mutation of cells within the body.
When a cancer cluster is suspected in an area, epidemiologists evaluate the area to determine what exactly is going on. The epidemiologists study the frequency and forms of cancers occurring in the area. They consider environmental factors, lifestyles, gender, and ethnicity to try to determine if an actual cancer cluster exists in the geographical location. Many times, suspected cancer clusters are passed off as simply a coincidence, but in truth, a suspected cancer cluster area typically results in a true cancer cluster.
What can be found in a Cancer Cluster?
Certain factors result in suspected cancer cluster areas. Cancer clusters generally have a large number of people affected by the same form of cancer. The cancer is generally a rare form and occurs in people that aren’t typically diagnosed with that form of cancer. The cancer must be a primary cancer and not the result of a previous form of cancer spreading to other areas of the body.
What causes Cancer Clusters?
Many different factors can result in cancer clusters. For example, in the 1960’s there was a mesothelioma outbreak due to asbestos used in shipbuilding during World War II. Cancer clusters can be caused from a number of things, such as genetics and environmental issues. Cancer occurs because of genetic alterations that occur within the body. Some people have an increased risk for developing cancer if family members have had cancer. When this occurs in large numbers, these are called family cancer clusters.
Environmental factors can also result in the cancer clusters. Substances or conditions of air, water, and soil can cause the cancer. Factors found within the home and workplace can also result in the cancer clusters. Geographical locations that have been exposed to hazardous materials can result in the cancer cluster as well.
If a cancer cluster is suspected, information can be gathered to report the area to state or local health departments. State and local departments can then establish an investigation to determine if a cancer cluster truly exists.
“Cancer Clusters” cancer.org
“Cancer Clusters” CDC.gov
“About Cancer Clusters” CDC.gov