Environment
11:55 am
Thu September 15, 2011

Investigation into rare cancer cases in Michigan gets help

Earlier this year, public health officials in St. Clair County began investigating whether environmental factors might be contributing to rare kidney cancers in some kids in the Marine City-China Township area.

Now, the investigation is getting the help of an epidemiologist.

More from the Times Herald of Port Huron:

An investigation into a possible cancer cluster is expected to pick up next month.

A part-time epidemiologist starts Oct. 1.

"It will be very nice to have someone there who can really focus in on it, who specializes in it," said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The department will fund the position with money from Healthy Michigan, which comes from cigarette excise taxes, Minicuci said.

The investigation, which began in April, centers on eight cases of Wilms tumor -- a rare childhood kidney cancer doctors have said typically is genetic. The cases in the investigation, all diagnosed since 2007, are in the Marine City/China Township area, the Port Huron area and on the border of St. Clair and Macomb counties in Richmond.

The community is about 40 miles northeast of Detroit, has industrial plants, and is about 10 miles away from petrochemical plants in Sarnia, Ontario.

U.S. Representative Candice Miller (R-Harrison Township) has asked for help from the Centers for Disease Control.

An official from the federal agency responded in a letter reiterating "their role as an adviser," but said "at present medical scientists and cancer epidemiologists have not yet identified either clear risk factors for or underlying causes of Wilms' tumor."