Cancer Statistics Raise Concerns for Calcasieu

Date: January 17, 2001
Reported by: Theresa Schmidt

Overall, compared to others in Louisiana and the nation, state health officials say you're no more likely to get cancer because you live in Calcasieu Parish. Still, a review of cancer statistics in Calcasieu has raised some concerns about certain cancers. More study is planned.

In general, Calcasieu Parish's cancer rate is no higher than elsewhere in the state or nation. That's according to a review of cancer cases between 1988 and 1997. But the statistical review does show that several cancers occur more often.

Dr. Jimmy Guidry is the state's health officer. "So, we're happy to tell the community, hey you don't have more cancer. Then when we look a little further, there are some things we need to answer, some questions we need to answer. We need to answer on some of these tumors that are slightly elevated, why is it that it might be elevated."

Of the most significant cancers elevated state health officials say there were no cases in Mossville. That's ironic since Mossville has been the focus of blood dioxin studies so far.

Guidry says expanded study including the rest of Calcasieu may help provide answers. "The people we found dioxin in with ATSDR in Mossville don't have these soft tissue sarcomas. The people with the soft tissue sarcomas, we don't know that they have, their dioxin levels. So to say cause and effect is real difficult."

Guidry emphasizes the public should not be frightened because of the study. "We may never find the cause, but what we need to find are there any reasons that people here might have a slightly elevated risk for soft tissue tumors. But I don't want to alarm the public. I would live here. I don't think the risk is that high. I just think that if I lived here I'd want to know what it means."

Guidry says, "Looking at, out of 7000 cases of cancer, 60 of those cases were what we call soft tissue tumors. And we found those in three groups. We found them in white females, black females and white males. And we said, well this cancer is pretty rare, you don't see it often. And that's true we don't see it often in this period. But it is higher than what you would expect for this Area. It's higher than what you would see in the rest of the state. But we do think that we need to look at this. Why is that so?"

The cancer review was done after the federal ATSDR found elevated levels of dioxin in the blood of twelve Mossville residents. State officials say it's too soon to judge whether dioxin may have a role in causing cancer in Calcasieu Parish. Copies of the cancer review are being placed at all branches of the Calcasieu Parish library for a 60 day public comment period. And the information will soon be on the state health department's web site. For a direct link click here.